Display celebrates the life of renowned Milngavie artist Ally Thompson

From left, Douglas Thompson, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP and James Higgins from the Lillie Art Gallery
From left, Douglas Thompson, Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP and James Higgins from the Lillie Art Gallery

A major exhibition celebrating the extraordinary life and work of Milngavie artist Ally Thompson has opened at the Lillie Art Gallery in the town.

Ally was one of the golden generation of figurative painters associated with the ‘New Glasgow Boys’ who studied at the School of Art.

Dubbed ‘the Glaswegian Surrealist’, Ally was an incredible artist whose work was acclaimed as vibrant, challenging and moving.

His home town of Milngavie was an inspiration and he was well known locally.

The exhibition – ‘Ally Thompson - A Life in Paint’ – was opened by the Scottish Government’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop MSP and speakers included fellow artist Peter Howson, a long-time friend of Ally, who once described him as “a visionary in the mould of William Blake”.

The display runs until February 21 at the Lillie, curated by Ally’s brother, Douglas Thompson.

There are around 75 paintings, drawings and collages on show, along with sketchbooks, photographs and commentary. These include an early oil loaned by former East Dunbartonshire MP John Nicolson. During a turbulent life, Ally spent time working in the south of France, painting many extraordinary images and he remains renowned in Europe, where his work is held in a number of private collections and galleries.

His work was also exhibited in New York.

Ally died on January 31, 2016, aged 60.

James Higgins told the Herald: “Over 50 friends, family and fellow artists attended Ally’s funeral in Milngavie in February 2016. He had in fact been well-loved by his community, despite contentment in his personal life having always eluded him.

“Although in the end he lost his battle with alcoholism and depression, and failed to find the recognition he believed his work deserved, his paintings and drawings live on in the hearts and minds of each person who is moved by them.

“Ally believed in the beauty and mystery of nature and the uncrushable spirit of humankind. His message was one of implacable opposition to the empty materialism of our current age. He believed, above all, in the spiritual power of art itself.”

Sandy Marshall, chair of EDLC Trust, said: “This 
major exhibition celebrates a highly-respected artist who drew inspiration from Milngavie and created an incredible range of work. I would encourage as many people as possible to go along and see his art for themselves.”