Jimmy Furneaux

22nd March 2013 at 00:00
An artist and teacher who was greatly respected for being 'intense, perceptive and inspirational'

Jimmy Furneaux, who has died aged 77, was an Aberdeen artist and teacher who made the Granite City his muse.

It was his eye for a new angle that set him apart as a northeast artist. Trained initially in architecture, he captured Aberdeen's less well-known buildings and landmarks from unusual perspectives, looking up alleyways, over rooftops or into backyards.

Born in Aberdeen and educated at Hilton School, he won a scholarship to Aberdeen Grammar, where he was influenced by art teacher Charles Hemingway. Having nurtured his talents, the teacher was sorely disappointed when, on leaving school, Furneaux took up an apprenticeship with architects Jenkins amp; Marr.

Hemingway, however, continued to work on his former student, eventually persuading him to give up architecture and enrol at Aberdeen's Gray's School of Art, where he studied sculpture. He did teacher training in Aberdeen and began his career as an art teacher with a peripatetic post, visiting schools in rural Aberdeenshire. A full-time job followed at Ellon Academy.

While at Gray's, Furneaux had met fellow student Mavis Davidson, whom he married in 1958. They lived in Tarves, where they had a family of four sons, before his work took them into Aberdeen in the mid-1960s, when he began teaching at the city's College of Commerce, which he always referred as the College of Comedy.

One former student and lifelong friend, sculptor James Castle, recalled his teaching as "intense, dynamic, perceptive, inspirational and crazy". "He would patrol the art studio like a man possessed, dressed in the School of Paris style: artist's smock, goatee beard, floppy hair and hush puppies - a force of nature," he said.

When the college closed in the 1980s, he continued to teach students for a short time before taking early retirement in his fifties. It enabled him to devote himself to his art and for several years he shared a studio in Guild Street with artists under the auspices of Workshop and Artists' Studio Provision Scotland (Wasps). He enjoyed being part of the Wasps community but also worked from his home in the city's west end and had been involved with Peacock Printmakers.

Although he had virtually given up sculpture while living in Aberdeenshire, in retirement he returned to it, as well as ceramics. But he also produced drawings and a range of works in other media.

Though he had lived with diabetes for 30 years, and latterly became increasingly debilitated and frail, he still had the ability to delight in the opportunity to see things anew. His images of Aberdeen, seen through his unique viewfinder, are now his enduring legacy.

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