Craigie Aitchison

[1926 – 2009]

Craigie was born in Edinburgh in 1926, the son of an eminent Scottish advocate; he attended Loretto School and, having been rejected for military service on medical grounds, initially followed in his father’s footsteps studying law at Edinburgh University and subsequently at Middle Temple in London. He abandoned the law in 1950 and set up a painting studio, first in Edinburgh but in 1951 he returned to London and the following year enrolled at the Slade School of Art, where fellow students included Michael Andrews, Paula Rego and Euan Uglow; the latter remained a close lifelong friend.


His first  solo show was at the Beaux Arts Gallery in London in 1959, where further solo shows followed in 1960 and 1964. He subsequently showed in London, amongst others, with Marlborough Fine Art, Albemarle Gallery, Thomas Gibson and latterly jointly with Timothy Taylor Gallery and Waddington Galleries.

Retrospectives of his work have been held at the Serpentine Gallery (1981), The Gallery of Modern  Art Glasgow (1996) and The Royal Academy (2003).

He was elected a Member of the Royal Academy in 1988, won the inaugural Jerwood painting prize in 1994, and was awarded a CBE in 1999. In the last decade of his life he had solo shows in both New York and Tokyo.

Possibly best known for his depictions of the Crucifixion, a life long inspiration following a visit to see Salvador Dali’s ‘Christ of St John of the Cross’ at the Kelvingrove Gallery in Glasgow in the early 1950’s, Aitchison is also noted for his portraiture, still lifes and landscapes, the latter often incorporating his beloved Bedlington Terriers.

He lived and worked in London, and in Italy where he acquired a ruined farmhouse near Siena in the mid 1970’s.