This Portrait of Sorley MacLean by Alexander Moffat, one of the foremost portrait painters of the 20th and 21st centuries, seems to capture the poet’s life experience and his great love for humanity.
Sorley MacLean (1911-1996) has been described as ‘one of the very greatest of the Gaelic poets . . . and one of the great love poets of the world.’ – Iain Crichton Smith
Sorley MacLean’s official website gives some background: ‘In December 1941, the poet was sent to Egypt, and spent the period from December 1941 to March 1943 on active service with the Royal Horse Artillery. He was wounded three times while on active service in North Africa: at one point it was even rumoured that he was missing in action. He had, in fact, been badly wounded at the Battle of El Alamein in November 1942 when a land mine exploded near him, and he had been taken to hospital. He spent the next nine months hospitalised in Burgel Arab, Cantara, Suez, Baragwanath, Netley in England and Raigmore Hospital, Inverness. He was finally discharged from Raigmore and invalided out of the army in August 1943. ‘
He counted amongst his friends some of the other poets in Landmarks – including Hugh MacDiarmid and Robert Garioch.
The Sorley MacLean Trust (Urras Shomhairle) was set up to perpetuate the memory of Sorley MacLean.
Alexander Moffat was head of painting and printmaking at Glasgow School of Art. He is also a writer, with several books written collaboratively with Alan Riach, Professor of Scottish Literature at Glasgow University. Alexander Moffat’s work is held in many public and private collections nationally and internationally. He was awarded an OBE in 2006 for services to the arts.
Literature: ‘Facing the Nation: The Portraiture of Alexander Moffat’ by art historian Bill Hare was published this year by Luath Press.
Provenance: from the artist’s studio
Pastel on coloured paper