Isobel Gordon

13th April 2012 at 01:00
The teacher and artist shared her passion for her work - and insights - with young people

Isobel Gordon, who has died aged 92, was an inspirational art educator with a grace and style more reminiscent of Italian renaissance than northeast Scotland.

Always immaculately turned out and pristine, her spotless smock and neatly-regimented jars of paints were an indication not only of her own sense of discipline but of the fastidious organisation that she brought to schools from Dunoon to Perth and Aberdeen.

The daughter of master grocer John Gordon and his wife Jessie, she was born in Old Aberdeen, where her artistic interests were fostered by her father, a well-read, self-educated man. Though he died when she was six, she also shared his love of music - he was a fiddler, she a talented violinist.

She attended Aberdeen High School for Girls before studying at Gray's School of Art between 1936 and 1940 when her contemporaries included Alberto Morrocco. There Miss Gordon quickly made her mark: in 1937 she was awarded the Founder's Prize of pound;210s, followed the next year by the Alexander Barker Prize.

Jobs were scarce in Aberdeen during the Second World War and after training at Aberdeen College of Education, she took up her first teaching post at Dunoon Grammar on the Firth of Clyde, an area then buzzing with naval activity. She then spent a short spell teaching in Oban before moving to Perth Academy.

Eventually she returned to Aberdeen, becoming principal teacher of art at Albyn School for Girls. In 1968 she was invited by the secretary of state to join the Scottish Education Department's working party on art in secondary schools. Its remit was to consider the position of art "in providing a continuing experience in creative expression through the visual arts and in fostering a sense of responsibility towards the creation of a visually satisfying environment".

With her knowledge and experience, coupled with an ability to give her pupils a real insight into the meaning and purpose of art, it was a role that suited her perfectly.

Later, she lent that same keen eye to an art exhibition at Kingseat Hospital outside Aberdeen, where she became a volunteer in the 1980s. Other interests included music - she played the violin in chamber groups in Perth and Dundee - and the Old Aberdeen Heritage Society, of which she was a member.

Only four years ago, her work featured in an exhibition at Gray's School of Art entitled Isobel Gordon: a 1930s art education. But though she was unquestionably an accomplished artist, her real legacy, as one of her former pupils observed, was her ability to communicate her emotional response to paintings: she loved to debate artistic merit and did so forthrightly, ferociously upholding her views.

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