Silhouettes of GSA Alumni

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The Friends of the National Libraries has recently awarded funding to GSA Library for the purchase of a unique album of 109 silhouettes, which features several important figures in the history of GSA. A unique ‘visitors’ book’ compiled by Percy and Mary Bate between 1903 and 1948, it contains silhouettes of their friends and acquaintances hand-cut from black paper. Sitters’ autographs also accompany the majority of the silhouettes.

In 1903 Bate (1868-1913) had recently become Secretary of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts. Who’s Who in Glasgow for 1909 notes that “Mr Bate is an enthusiastic collector of 18th century furniture and old English glass; he is a student of genealogy and heraldry, and no unskilled designer of book-bindings in illuminated vellum. He is also the author of articles and brochures on such artistic subjects as the pre-Raphaelite painters, English table glass, and the future of oil-painting”.

Bate’s position at the Royal Glasgow Institute enabled he and his wife to cultivate a social circle of key luminaries of the Glasgow art scene of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This volume therefore provides a unique record of the informal creative networks that flourished in Scotland’s great industrial city during this period. In particular, the album contains silhouettes of a number of artists, designers, and architects who attended Glasgow School of Art, or were otherwise associated with the School. These include:

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John Henderson (1860-1924)

Henderson was born in Glasgow in 1860 and studied at GSA under Robert Greenlees. He was a landscape and portrait painter and first exhibited at the Royal Glasgow Institute in 1884. He assisted at the Glasgow International Exhibitions of 1901-1911 and was a Governor at GSA from 1906-1918. He was appointed director of GSA in 1918.

Louise Ellen Perman (1854-1921)

Perman was born in Glasgow and studied at GSA from 1881-90. She was a painter of flowers and worked mainly in oils. In 1911, she married the artist James Torrance. She held several exhibitions, often showing in conjunction with other Glasgow women artists such as Jessie Algie, Jessie M. King and Anne Muir.

Duncan MacKellar (1852-1908)

MacKellar attended morning and evening classes at GSA, exhibiting at the Royal Glasgow Institute from 1873.

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Frances Macdonald McNair (1874-1921)

Macdonald is an important figure in the history of GSA. Along with her husband James Herbert McNair (1868-1955), her sister Margaret Macdonald (1865-1933), and Margaret’s husband Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), she was an active member of the so-called ‘Glasgow Four’ who between them developed the Glasgow Style aesthetic that is so connected to the School of Art. All four artists attended lessons in the School. The Friends of the National Libraries funded the GSA purchase of Das Eigenkleid der Frau, with a binding by Macdonald, in 2014.

Alexander Roche (1861-1921)

Roche was born in Glasgow and originally trained as an architect before studying painting at GSA. From 1881 he was in Paris, where he made the acquaintance of the ‘Glasgow Boys’ group of artists.

James Craig Annan (1864-1946)

Annan was a pioneering Scottish photographer and Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. The son of photographer Thomas Annan, he was the first to introduce the German invention of photogravure to Britain. He was well known to members of the GSA circle, taking portraits of the artist Jessie M. King and the tutor and embroiderer Ann Macbeth. His 1893 photograph of the School’s architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh has become the seminal image of him. GSA Library holds an original bookplate by him in its collection. His work features in The Magazine (1893-1896), a student publication by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his contemporaries held in GSA Archives and digitised at

Agnes Bell Annan (1875-1976)

The sister of James Craig Annan, her work also features in The Magazine.

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Agnes Middleton Raeburn (1872-1955) 

Raeburn was born in Glasgow and was a student at GSA from 1887 to 1902. She was elected to the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1901 and was also a member of the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists from around 1893, serving as its President from 1940 to 1943. Her work also features in The Magazine.

Helen Paxton Brown (1876-1956)

Brown studied at GSA from 1894-1901 and went on to teach embroidery at the School from 1904-1907 and bookbinding from 1911-1913. She was a close friend of Jessie M. King, and the two shared a studio. She joined the Glasgow Society of Lady Artists in 1905.

Jessie M. King (1875-1949)

King studied at GSA from 1892-1899. Fellow students included Helen Paxton Brown, Annie French, Ann Macbeth, and Katherine Cameron as well as Margaret and Frances Macdonald, who in 1896 with Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Herbert MacNair launched the influential ‘Glasgow Style’ allied to European art nouveau. GSA Library holds an important collection of around 70 bindings and illustrated books by King.

David Stark (1896-1916)

Stark attended GSA from 1912-1913 as an evening student of drawing and painting and from 1913-1914 as an evening architecture student. With the outbreak of war, Stark served as a Private in 17th Battalion (3rd Glasgow) of the Highland Light Infantry. He was killed in action in France or Flanders on 1st July 1916 and is commemorated on The GSA First World War Roll of Honour.

Thanks to generous funding from the Friends of the National Libraries, this unique album has now returned to Glasgow, where it complements other artefacts and texts relating to turn-of-the-century creative networks held in Glasgow School of Art’s archives and the library’s special collections. Requests to view the volume can be directed to Duncan Chappell, Librarian at

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