ONE of Helensburgh and district’s most commercially successful artists enjoyed the month of May 2011 painting in France — thanks to a Charles Rennie Mackintosh connection.
Mary Batchelor, who lives in Rhu, was one of the first two Scottish lady artists to be offered the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Residency at Collioure in the Pyrénées Orientales in southern France.
The full-time artist, a former pupil of St Bride’s, now Lomond, School, trained at Glasgow School of Art and works solely in acrylics, usually on canvas, specialising in landscapes.
Mary’s very colourful works, in the tradition of the Scottish Colourists — Cadell, Peploe, Fergusson and Hunter — adorn art galleries throughout Britain and fetch high prices at art sales and auctions.
She is inspired by Scottish landscapes, and paints them with very bold colour and broad brush work.
The residencies are an annual event organised by L’Association Charles Rennie Mackintosh en Roussillon, which was formed in 2004, initially to organise an exhibition for the celebration in Roussillon of the centenary of the Entente Cordiale with Scotland.
In recent years it has run a programme to increase awareness of the life and work of Mackintosh and, in the spirit of Mackintosh, to encourage and to pioneer cross-cultural exchange initiatives.
The association is administered by an elected committee and has a French and a Scottish president. It is affiliated to the Charles Rennie Mackintosh Society in Glasgow.
Last August a busload of the French members arrived in Helensburgh to visit Mackintosh’s masterpiece, Hill House, and they also visited Mary’s studio to look at her work.
Mary said: “They were all delightful French men and women but most of them didn`t speak much English.
“They must have liked my work and given me a good report. The Maire in Collioure has the final decision, and I heard later that I had been selected.”
The principal organiser of the residency programme is Robin Crichton, who was involved in the Scottish film industry for many years, and he informed Mary that her name had been put forward and asked if she would take part.
“We lived in separate apartments in the centre of Collioure, and we were free to soak up the culture and landscape for the month,” Mary said.
“An exhibition of work from the artists time there is arranged in France and Scotland, and we were asked to donate one piece to the association`s permanent collection in Collioure.”
Mary received an invitation to the opening of the exhibition in Collioure's Town Hall on Monday October 10, but was unable to attend.
She was following in Mackintosh’s footsteps. The Glasgow-born architect was very successful in that profession until the First World War, but when peace returned the style he had created was no longer in vogue.
In 1923 he abandoned his architectural career and went on a painting holiday with his wife Margaret, also a talented artist, to the Pyrénées Orientales. The holiday became a permanent stay, and for the last four and perhaps the happiest years of his life, he devoted himself to painting.
He developed a unique personal style of landscape, and today his paintings hang in international collections around the world.
Mary said: “I wonder if this experience will affect my work as it did the illustrious Derain, Matisse and of course Mackintosh and his watercolours.
“To have an opportunity to immerse myself in the culture and landscape of that area away from the normal pattern of my life was amazing and very exciting.”
She was joined in France by Jackie Watt from Edinburgh, another landscape specialist, who trained at Edinburgh College of Art.
She is a part-time tutor at the Leith School of Art and Scottish Organiser for the Open College of the Arts, and her innovative use of paint and colour produces large and vibrant multi-media works which are expressive and colourful.
- Mary is pictured with her passport at the ready outside the iconic Hill House. Photo by Donald Fullarton.