HAMISH HENDERSON – Small study for Scotland’s Voices

18.5 x 13
Alexander Moffat OBE RSA

‘Hamish Henderson – Small study for Scotland’s Voices‘ is of cultural and historical significance. Hamish Henderson (1919 – 2002) was a well-loved Scottish poet, folklorist, political activist, WW2 soldier and interpreter, songwriter, translator of poetry from the Gaelic, French, German, Latin and Greek . . . in other words one of the greatly well lived lives of twentieth century Scotland.  His life filled two massive volumes of biography by Timothy Neat. Hamish Henderson is the central figure in Scotland’s Voices, surrounded by the Scottish traditional singers and musicians he recorded.

The artist made several studies of this central figure.  The studies reveal some of the processes by which the artist developed the composition, colour, content of the final work. In this study Hamish Henderson holds in his outstretched right hand the microphone of the reel-to-reel recorder he had strapped to the back of his motorbike on his travels.  His gesture and facial expression in the study are of attentive listening towards an unseen singer or musician, whose vast memory must have impressed Hamish’s acute sense of history and overwhelmed him with the vastness of his undertaking.   In fact he said that trying to capture the traditional song and music of Scotland was like ‘holding a tin can under Niagara Falls.’

Literature:  a new book on Alexander Moffat’s portraiture was published by Luath Press this year.  In ‘Facing the Nation‘ art historian Bill Hare writes, “In all of his portraiture, Moffat aims to find a balance between emotional expression and compositional order. Over the last 50 years or so, almost single-handed, he has upheld the importance of modern portraiture in Scotland.”


Acrylic on paper

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