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Issue 96 - Artist in Residence

Scotland Magazine Issue 96
December 2017


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Artist in Residence

Roddy Martine meets Edward Hasell McCosh

Painting has always been in this artist’s background. Both his grandfather and great uncle were accomplished amateur artists, and Edward remained an amateur artist working only at the weekends.

Always conscious that painting was his great love and true destiny, he was almost 30 by the time he contacted a distinguished Scottish artist, the late Alberto Morrocco, who invited him to enrol at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, which is known for its emphasis on tutored drawing. The teaching was exactly what he was looking for. He says he will always be indebted to his time at Dundee and the help he received.

Edward went on to study Old Masters techniques under the late Professor Nicolas Wacker, Professor de L’atelier des Techniques de la Peinture at the famous École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts. On a visit to the Louvre Museum in Paris he had been fascinated to find art students from the Beaux- Arts copying old masters to a high standard, something he had not come across at home. Again, he says he will forever be indebted to the time he spent at the Beaux-Arts.

The École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux- Arts has a history spanning more than 350 years, training many of the great artists in Europe. The Beaux-Arts style was modeled on classical ‘antiquities’ to preserve these idealised forms and pass the style on to future generations. It provided Edward with exactly the style of mentoring that he had been looking for.

"Why do I admire the Flemish style?" he muses. "I like painting the natural world. The 17th Century was a wonderful period in art. They broke away from the trade of religiosity. Merchants were celebrating the natural world around them - the plants and the animals and birds they brought back from their sea voyages. The works of art that they patronized and commissioned for their homes transcended the harsh reality of the times in which they lived."

"I love the craftsmanship and precision of that generation of Flemish artists - painters like Pieter Boel and Jan Davidszoon de Heem. I’m interested in the realism you can produce while making a personal statement at the same time, not just for the accuracy you can achieve."

While visiting Castle Ashby, a historic English country house, many years earlier he had come across the Marquess of Northamptonshire’s collection of 17th Century Flemish art. That is where his fascination with still life and poultry began. "I was bowled over then and I remain bowled over today. They so obviously loved their subject matter," he says.

Still life, including fruit, ornamental game and exotic poultry; flower compositions; and seasonal landscapes, largely composed in the Scottish borderland that surrounds him, make up Edward Hasell McCosh’s portfolio. He is captivated by the intricate plumage, subtle colours and beauty of his subjects, which range from pheasants, swans and French partridges to a river in spate or a pastel landscape revealing a shaded sunset over distant rolling hills.

A true renaissance craftsman, he prepares his own canvases using quality fine linen and professionally handmade stretchers.

He primes the canvas with glue and then oil primer, sanding down slightly after each coating and then finally re-stretching the canvas. Canvases are then given several months to dry before a picture is started.

He prepares his own paint and mediums; the pigments are freshly ground in the studio each day before the commencement of a painting. An initial concept is drawn by pencil on paper and then transferred using willow charcoal, which is easily rubbed out with a duster to allow correction.

He then builds up the painting layer on layer using a combination of direct painting, scumbling and glazing, moving back and forward from one method to another. He is not afraid to put the canvas aside and revisit it at a later date to allow changes. Thus, Edward achieves a richness, depth of colour and finish that otherwise would not be possible. Each picture sparkles with vitality.

"Inspiration only comes through regular work," he reflected, quoting Francis Bacon. Edward Hasell McCosh’s paintings are now to be found in private collections throughout the UK, Holland, and in North America. The best-selling author Alexander McCall Smith owns several pieces and compares his work to Edward Hicks, the 19th Century American painter of Peaceable Kingdom. Edward says he appreciates the generosity of this opinion of his work.

"If my work can be about the perfect moment, the healing quiet, a dream transposed onto canvas, then I have achieved something, hopefully," he says.

Edward Hasell McCosh has created a permanent gallery for his paintings in the elegant rooms of a beautiful 18th-Century country house, surrounded by open parkland and woodland, to the south of Edinburgh.

Those who are interested in purchasing or viewing his work should make contact via his website. The gallery of his paintings is open for viewing throughout the year by appointment only and an illustrated catalogue of the artist’s recent work is also available. 


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