26 June 2007
Groam House, the award-winning museum in Rosemarkie, continues its highly successful Highland 2007 project with the opening of a special exhibition in Drumnadrochit on 26 June. The exhibition project focuses on the outstanding work of Highland artist George Bain, who devoted much of his life to the study of the techniques of the ancient Celtic and Pictish artists.
The touring exhibition, George Bain – A Highland Homecoming, has already attracted large numbers of visitors during its visit to Thurso, Wick and Kingussie earlier this year. However, the Drumnadrochit event will mark a very special stage in the exhibition tour because of Bain’s strong connection with the area which influenced his work during the 1940s and early 1950s.
Often referred to as `the father of modern Celtic design’, George Bain was born in Scrabster, Caithness in 1881. His family moved to Edinburgh around1890, where Bain began his professional training. After a rich and varied career as an artist and teacher, Bain moved back to the Highlands in 1946, settling in Drumnadrochit – birthplace of his wife Jessie Mackintosh. Bain became well-known locally through the artwork he produced at this time - most of which reflected his love of the Glenurquhart area and his deep interest in its community life.
 Shortly after moving to Drumnadrochit, Bain became a regular supporter of the Glenurquhart Gathering and Games held at Blairbeg, and his line drawing of the Highland dancers from 1946 is still used in the official programme. The exhibition will display several of his sketches of dancers, pipers and sheep-dog trials at the games. These quick sketches, so full of life, are a contrast to his painstaking precision and draughtsmanship in his Celtic art that most of us are more familiar with.
Bain was living in the Drumnadrochit at the time of John Cobb’s tragic attempt at the world water speed record. Cobb died in his rocket propelled vessel when it broke up on Loch Ness on 29th September 1952. He had attained the remarkable speed of 206.89 mph, and created a new world record. A cairn was erected in his memory by the Glenurquhart Rural Community Association, and the group selected a design by the winning artist, George Bain. The plaster of Paris plaque made by Bain for this memorial is one of the unusual pieces on display in the special exhibition in Drumnadrochit. Bain’s plaque was then sand-cast in bronze for the memorial by an Edinburgh firm of bronze-founders.
The Drumnadrochit exhibition will also feature a number of examples of Bain’s work in Celtic art, showing a range of his achievements from studies taken from the Book of Kells, to his own Celtic-influenced designs – many of which were used for the design of carpets, ceramics, embroidery and greeting cards. Even during his `retirement’ years in Drumnadrochit, Bain’s interest in the study of Celtic design never dwindled, and he pursued a vision of establishing a College of Celtic Cultures in Inverness-shire. Despite Bain’s success in running Celtic art and craft classes for the local community, his dream of establishing the college was never realised, due to lack of financial support.
In addition to the touring exhibition, Groam House Museum is hosting a year-long exhibition, Theory into Practice: George Bain and His Celtic Art Revival, in its museum base in Rosemarkie. This fascinating exhibition focuses more specifically on Bain’s Celtic artwork, and features metalwork and jewellery objects specially loaned by the National Museums of Scotland as well as items from Groam House Museum’s Bain collection. A highlight of the exhibition is an original Bain carpet, kindly loaned by Rhona Brankin.
Groam House Museum is also organising a comprehensive programme of related events, offering a free lecture, two free workshops to primary schools and an evening workshop for the general public in each location the exhibition visits. The general aim of these sessions is to pass on the basic principles of Celtic art as defined by George Bain’s original techniques and teachings. The workshops will be tutored by Burgess and Fiona Hay, professional artists who, like Bain, have devoted a great deal of their careers to the study of authentic Celtic techniques.
The public workshop in Drumnadrochit will take place at 7.00pm on Thursday, 6 September. Please book to reserve a place by contacting the Craigmonie Centre, Tel: 01456 459 224, or email the Coordinator, fran.davidson@highland.gov.uk. There is a fee of £7.50 to cover materials.
The Drumnadrochit lecture on the life and work of Geore Bain will take place at 7.30pm on Thursday, 16 August in the Craigmonie Centre, and will be given by Susan Seright, curator of Groam House Museum. Susan has played a key role in the acquisition of the Bain Collection and, through her research of Bain’s work and connections with his family, she has become a principal expert in this field. According to Susan: “This exhibition project will represent a fitting high point in the unique relationship the museum has developed with the memory of George Bain and his surviving family over the last 10 years.” Susan’s newly revised booklet on the life of George Bain will be available at each exhibition venue.
The Drumnadrochit exhibition visits the Craigmonie Centre, Glenurquhart Community School from 26 June to 22 September, 2007, and moves on to Timespan in Helmsdale from 29 September to 27 October. The static exhibition in Groam House Museum, Rosemarkie runs from May 2007 until Easter 2008.
For more information about the workshops and lectures, please check local press or contact Groam House Museum Office, tel: 01463 811883; email: groamhouse@ecosse.net; or visit, www.groamhouse.org.uk  
The `George Bain – A Highland Homecoming’ project has been made possible through the financial support of the following organisations: Highland 2007, The Highland Council, HIE Inverness and East Highland, the HIE network, Awards for All, Cromarty Arts Trust, the Caithness British Association for the Advancement of Science, and Walker Metalsmiths, USA.

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