Katherine Crouan (ed.) William Crozier (Book Review)

February 2009

Publication: The Times Literary Supplement

Katherine Crouan (ed.)

William Crozier

208pp. Lund Humphries £35.00

978 0 85331 970 2









The Scottish painter William Crozier deserves to be better known. This handsomely illustrated hardback (edited by the artist’s wife Katherine Crouan) can therefore only augment his reputation, extending an understanding of his work from a small group of cognoscenti to a wider public. Crozier, born in Glasgow in 1930, studied at Glasgow School of Art between 1949 and 1953 where he was steeped in the rather conservative atelier tradition prevalent in Scottish art schools at that time. An early mentor, David Donaldson, was one of Crozier’s teachers and it was from Donaldson, arguably, that he learned about the way colour could be used not only descriptively but also as a vehicle for emotion.

Two different sets of circumstances shaped the young Crozier’s art and thinking after leaving Glasgow  - the first, a period of a few months in Paris in 1953, where the existentialist philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre became a life-long influence; the second, an exhibition of post-war American painting at the Tate Gallery in 1956. Here, Crozier encountered ‘in the flesh’ for the first time, artists such as Willem de Kooning whose Abstract Expressionism melded the figurative and landscape traditions with a fresh, vital and powerful message.

This book, which contains additional essays by S.B. Kennedy and Philip Vann, neatly categorises Crozier’s work into thematic and chronological categories, as is the wont of art historians. But there is plenty of overlap in Crozier’s stylistic and philosophical development. One constant, evolved and honed over time, is his treatment of landscape. Crozier rarely, if ever, paints the land for its own sake; it’s always a vehicle for his ‘mindscape’ and, particularly in his later work mainly painted in west Ireland, it is informed by the painter’s feelings about historical events (often cruel and brutal) which occurred there. Although vividly and vibrantly coloured, Crozier’s art is never wholly celebratory or joyful, there is always ‘the skull beneath the skin’. It’s no surprise to learn that Munch (whose ‘Scream’ depicts the cacophony of nature itself) is a heavy and prevalent influence.