This week’s #BeConnected Explore Our Campus blog looks at some of the University portraits which hang in the Court Room Building.
The new University of Stirling began to commission portraits right from the start. Eminent Scottish artist Alberto Morrocco was chosen to paint first Vice Chancellor and Principal Tom Cottrell in 1968, and we know from archive notes that this picture was originally hung in the first University Court Room, which was situated in the modernist Pathfoot Building. The mood of the portrait – relaxed and informal – is very much in keeping with the spirit of the age, as this new university embraced the egalitarian approach of the late ’60s.
The immediate massive expansion of the modern university system in Britain in the 1960s had been advocated by eminent British economist Lord Robbins in the ‘Robbins Report’ (1964), which led directly to Stirling’s founding in 1967. As a result, Lord Robbins was invited to become first Chancellor of the University. Here he is portrayed in a plain suit on a simple wooden chair, with no gown in sight, and this certainly seems to have been the conscious style of choice for portraits throughout the 1970s, with a relaxed Lord Wheatley sitting comfortably against a striking Holbein-esque turquoise backdrop, shown below.
By the eighties however, the portrait style had clearly gained a new formality. Alberto Morrocco, who had painted Tom Cottrell in the late 60s, went on to paint the next three Principals during the 1980s and 90s, and these are notably all much more traditional than the three above. Now, the subjects are wearing their robes of office, and sit on much grander chairs.
In this last one, painted in 1994, Professor Forty sits on a carved throne, wearing one gown, and leaning on another. It is also the first portrait to feature some background detail – the beautiful expanse of campus, loch and snowy Ochils.
Professor Forty’s successor, Professor Andrew Miller, is similarly portrayed with a scenic background. This portrait was painted by Juliet Wood who at around the same time was commissioned also to paint Lord Balfour of Burleigh. At the turn of the millennium there seems to have been a move away again from the gowned portrait towards a more informal feel, with the subjects in relaxed poses, and with more interest created in the foreground by hints at the subject’s area of research.
The artist says:’ I painted Robert Balfour in his engineer’s overall, with working tools at hand. This was more expressive of his lively and individual character than the wearing of a gown’. The gown is shown hanging in the background.
A particularly relaxed portrait, also by Juliet Wood (Oil on canvas, 2007), is this one of Dr Littlejohn CBE who was Chairman of the University Court, and was the first female chair in the UK of the Industrial Tribunal (Scotland). “Painted [at her] home in Bridge of Allan in the unusually sunny autumn of 2007” (Juliet Wood)
These two photographic portraits were taken at the request of the two individuals. Colin Bell (above) was adamant that he did not want a painted portrait of himself and preferred a photographic medium, but he tragically died in post before one could be commissioned. Tricia Malley and Ross Gillespie, known together as ‘broad daylight’, had earlier been commissioned by the University of Edinburgh however to take official portraits of their staff, so we were able to select this one of Colin as our official portrait. He’s looking a little serious for a man who laughed a lot and loved jazz, music and art. Christine Hallett (shown below) similarly preferred the option of a photographic portrait and Tricia and Ross were commissioned. This portrait was taken in the University library.
The University recently benefitted from a generous gift from an anonymous donor, which enabled the painting of the portrait of James Naughtie, shown below.
The artist (Guy Kinder) gives an interesting insight into the creation of this painting:
‘During my preliminary meeting with James Naughtie, I established that he was keen for me to reveal in the portrait his passion for books, politics, music and Scotland. Much of this has been conveyed through the titles depicted in the bookcase. His years as Chancellor of Stirling University are represented by the carefully placed mortar board and the gown draped over his piano. Also during our conversation, James talked about his piano lessons as a boy, and of a statuette of Mozart belonging to his teacher, which he had always admired. The statuette was bequeathed to James when his teacher died. I decided that the inclusion of the statuette was a personal touch that would also lend an intermediate interest between the figure and gown in the foreground and the backdrop of the bookcase’.
The double portrait featured at the top is:
Portrait of Dr. R. G. Bomont and Dr. Angus Mitchell
by Anne H Mackintosh
Bob Bomont was University Secretary for 22 years, retiring in 1995. His book “The University of Stirling: Beginnings and Today” is in the foreground. Dr Angus Mitchell was Chairman of the University Court. He is painted with Penguin books at his elbow as he collected a complete set of Penguins which he later donated to the University Archive. The campus can be seen from the window in the background.