"The family is one of nature's masterpieces." - George Santayana
The Art of Family
- Charlotte Lorimer, Curator of Upward Onward and Co-Curator of Reflections
I would like to thank everyone for their generous support and guidance in the creation of the gallery: Monica Lorimer, William James Lorimer, Prof. Claire Bailey-Ross, Prof. Anthony Parton, Antonia Laurence-Allan, Prof. Martin Kemp, Prof. Duncan MacMillan, Alistair Drennan, John Knight, Elizabeth Cumming, Prof. Annette Carruthers, Elizabeth Roads, Jane Lorimer, Katie Stockton, Aline Lorimer, Mark Lorimer, David Lorimer, Ian Gow, Simon Green, Lt. Col. Roger Binks, Deborah Walter, Louise Boreham, Kirsty Jackson, Paul & Josie Veenhuijzen, Katherine Eustace, Julia & James Ogilvy, Sarah Phemister, Stephen Preston, Hazel Reid, Dianne Watters, Prof. Jim Lawson, Prof. John Lowrey.
Image Sources: The National Trust for Scotland (Antonia Laurence-Allan, Ian Riches, Marcin Klimek), The Lyon Office (Elizabeth Roads), Antonia Reeve, Saul Gardiner, David Allan, Louise Boreham, Alistair Drennan, Deborah Walter, Jane Lorimer, Prof. Duncan MacMillan, The University of Edinburgh (Jill Forrest, Francesca Baseby), Edinburgh City Art Centre (Helen Scott), Royal Institute of British Architects (Vicky Wilson), Ardkinglas (Jean Maskell), The Royal Scottish Academy (Sandy Wood), The Kirkcaldy Galleries (Ross Irving), The Tate (Chris Sutherns), Touchstones Rochdale Art Gallery (Alison Cooper), The Musée D’Orsay (Marie Le Clair), St Colmon’s Church (Claire Pirrie), Historic Scotland (Joe Waterfield).
Literary sources: Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer, John Henry Lorimer, Hew Lorimer, Hannah Lorimer, Prof. James Lorimer, Christopher Lorimer, Peter Savage, Christopher Hussey, Prof. Martin Kemp, Prof. Duncan MacMillan, Dr Diana M. Henderson, May Anne Fenoulhet, Prof. Annette Carruthers, Elizabeth Cumming, Louise Boreham, Kirsty Jackson, Katherine Eustace, John Knight, Deborah Walter, Jane Tonner, Kerima Mohideen, Diane M. Watters, Juliette MacDonald, Anne Anderson, S. C. De Soissons, John W. Cairns, David M. Walker, Lindsey MacBeth Shen, Julia Ogilvy, Tim Longville, Deborah Mays, Mary Miers, Country Life, David Baxter, Fr. Michael MacDonald, Beverley Anne Fenton, Mapping Sculpture, Art UK.
Upward Onward: The Art of Family collects and connects the art of the Lorimer Family. Born from a History of Art module at Durham University, it has grown into a permanent gallery which aims to tell the stories surrounding the art of the Lorimers. It is also the spark for the upcoming in-person exhibition Reflections: The Light and Life of John Henry Lorimer, set to run from 6th November 2021 to 20th March 2022 at The City Art Centre in Edinburgh.
The online gallery can be explored as a continuous narrative or simply by moving between the art forms which speak to you: sculpture or gardens, painting or music, each is a chapter of the story.
Robbie reading 'Guy Mannering' to the Prof. John Henry Lorimer (1878), Kellie Castle, Photo: © National Trust
Robert Lorimer with his wife Violet, son Christopher and twins Hew and Daphne, Photo: © Monica Lorimer
Hew Lorimer with his daughter Monica at Kellie Castle, Photo: © National Trust for Scotland
Katie, David and William Lorimer at Gibliston (2000), Photo: © Jane Lorimer
Charlotte and George Lorimer (2015), Photo: © Jane Lorimer
(1832-1916) Restoration, Painting, Music
(1854-unknown) Interior, Embroidery, Sculpture, Music
(1856-1936) Painting, Restoraton
(1857-unknown) Painting, Music
(1861-1946) Interior, Embroidery, Garden, Music
(1864-1929) Architecture, Interior, Garden, Memorial, Music
(1864-1929) Architecture, Interior, Garden, Memorial, Music
(1904-1991) Interior (Collecting - Burmese Art)
(1907-1974) Twin of Hew
(1907-1993) Twin of Daphne, Sculpture, Memorial, Restoration
(Please note that the mobile site is currently text only as the artwork videos are not supported, for the full website, view on a desktop.)
“I am so grateful that we have been permitted to save this lovely old place from ruin, and hope that we may live soberly, righteously and godly in it and make people happy in it.” - Mrs Hannah Lorimer
Crafting Family Homes
For seventy years, Kellie Castle had been empty, but for the birds. “Hundreds of crows, starlings, and jackdaws built in the chimneys. Swallows built in the coronets on the ceilings, and owls made the night hideous by hooting in the deserted chambers,” wrote Prof. James Lorimer, who together with his wife Hannah and six children stumbled upon Kellie one summers day. And fell love with it.
The family swiftly arranged a lease and, aided by the loyal craftsmen of Fife, set out to mend the castle. The creeping ivy became hand-crafted plaster vines, the windows were hung with embroidered curtains and the castle was filled with painting and music.
The eldest daughter Hannah had inherited her mother’s gifts as a painter and pianist and excelled in needlework and sculpture. She exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy even before her brother John Henry who went on to exhibit paintings in Edinburgh, London and Paris, many painted in Kellie's West tower. His brushstrokes capture family memories at the castle, especially of his sister Alice and her children. Louise grew the flowers of Kellie, embroidered in bedspreads, and planted in flowerbeds, working from designs by her younger brother Robert.
The impact of the restoration of Kellie on Robert was monumental. At fourteen, he “announced his firm decision to become an architect,” according to one of his sisters. His first commission was the restoration of Earlshall, a castle ten miles away which had also been empty for seventy years. There is a story that it too was discovered when Robert MacKenzie was out walking. Although it is more likely that he admired his friends’ restoration of Kellie, and decided to give young Robert his chance. Earlshall led to the restoration and creation of many more family homes, the pinnacle of which was Ardkinglas. “This big new job I’ve got on Loch Fyne, I mean to handle, as I’ve never handled a job before," wrote Robert to fellow architect and friend Robin Dods. "The ground is to be broken on the first of May, and the dear old gent wants to eat his dinner in it on 1st August 1907. If he does it’ll be a record.” The mansion house was completed in twenty-one months. Over one hundred years later, the same family continue to live in and love his creation.
The family spirit of Kellie continued through the sculptures of Hew Lorimer, Robert’s son, who saved the castle for the second time with his wife Mary, a painter. While the east coast light of Kellie poured into the ink that coloured Charlotte's screen-prints. The birds soaring across the silk are those same Fife birds who once nested in the broken castle, choosing Kellie as their home.
Kellie Castle (West Tower: 1360, East Tower: 1573, Central Part: 1606, Restored by the Lorimers: 1878), Arncroach,
Photo: © National Trust for Scotland
Earlshall Castle (Built: 1540, Restored by Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer: 1892), Leuchars, Photo: Private Collection
Ardkinglas House, (1907), Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer, Loch Fyne, Photo: © T. Lewis
View from Kellie Castle, John Henry Lorimer, Photo: © Charlotte Lorimer
Fife Birds (2013), Charlotte Lorimer, Photo: © Charlotte Lorimer
“I do hope we'll see you all at Kellie early next summer...It would be awfully jolly, for Kellie just wants a lot of little kids scampering about to make it perfect.”
- Robert Lorimer to Alice Lorimer
A Celebration of Family
The bond between mother and child is an eternal source of artistic inspiration. Alice holds her young son as the family lament The Flight of the Swallows, symbolising the end of their summer at Kellie. Monica Lorimer reflected that her great aunt would have identified with the departing swallows, soon to leave Kellie herself to rejoin her husband Sir David Chalmers, Chief Justice of British Guiana. Alice married at twenty-one, having studied as one of the first female students at the University of Edinburgh where her father was Professor of Public Law.
The sculpture modelled by her sister Hannah could easily be mistaken for Alice and one of her children, yet the initials inscribed on the base read J.B. and C.K.M.B. While their identities have been lost, affection and tenderness endures, made all the more poignant by the fact that Hannah never had her own children. She married Sir Everand im Thurn, Governor of Fiji, when she was forty-one.
Hew Lorimer represented Mother and Child throughout his career, a key motif of his Catholic faith. His carved diploma piece evolved into the monumental 27 ft Lady of Our Isles, the largest sculpture in Britain until Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North.
Saint Margaret, patroness of childbirth and known as “The Pearl of Scotland,” crowns Sir Robert Lorimer’s Thistle Chapel. The brothers William and Alexander Clow carved the wood, working from models made by Louis Deuchars, inspired by his own four young children.
The 'Pelican in her Piety,' sacrificing her own blood to feed her children, is an ancient symbol of sacrifice and motherhood, an appropriate motif for a baby's cot. Carved by the Clow brothers, the cot was designed by Robert for his first son Christopher, affectionately painted by his uncle in the painting Hush. The same symbol of the mother pelican with the guardian angel glimmers in the Thistle Chapel and again above the Scottish oak door of the Scottish National War Memorial. When asked about it, Robert described the sculpture of the pelican as the keynote of the entire memorial, a symbol of excruciating sacrifice for an unforgivable Great War.
Flight of the Swallows (1906), John Henry Lorimer, Edinburgh City Art Centre, Photo: © City of Edinburgh Council
Mother and Child (1900), Hannah Lorimer, Kellie Castle, Photo: © Charlotte Lorimer
Diploma Piece: Mother and Child (1932), Hew Lorimer, Photo: © The National Trust for Scotland
The Lady of Our Isles (1954), Hew Lorimer, Reuval Hill, South Uist, Photo: © The National Trust for Scotland
Model: Saint Margaret (1911), Louis Deuchars, Photo: © Louise Boreham
Carving: Saint Margaret (1911), William and Alexander Clow, Thistle Chapel, Edinburgh, Photo: © Saul Gardiner
Detail: Pelican (c.1904), carved by William and Alexander Clow, Cot designed by Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer, made by Whytock & Reid, Photo: © Charlotte Lorimer
Detail: Pelican beneath Lamp (c.1911), modelled by Louis Deuchars, cast by Bromsgrove Guild of Applied Arts, Thistle Chapel, Edinburgh, Photo: © David Allan
Detail: Pelican above Entrance, (c.1927) modelled by Alice Meredith Williams, gilded by Charles d’orville Pilkington Jackson, The Scottish National War Memorial, Edinburgh, Photo: © Antonia Reeve
Hush (1906), John Henry Lorimer, Touchstones Rochdale Art Gallery, Photo: © Rochdale Arts and Heritage Centre
“The word 'lorimer' is a corruption of the French word 'lormier,' a maker of bridle bits, spurs and other metallic portions of horse gear and harness […] derived from a craft, like Smith, Glover, Skinner, Ferrier and so many others.”
- Christopher Lorimer
The Family of Craftsmen
A knowledge and appreciation of craftsmanship, embedded in the name Lorimer itself, was the foundation for all the family restorations, designs and sculptures. Prof. James was the first to encourage and commission William Wheeler, the farm cart and wheel maker, to make furniture. Wheeler went on to make many of Robert Lorimer’s designs and was the first of three generations of furniture makers.
Robert became the father of a brother and sisterhood of craftsmen. The carvers William and Alexander Clow, the blacksmith Thomas Hadden and the ceiling modeller Thomas Beattie worked with him for thirty years. The enameler Phoebe Traquair, the stone carver Joseph Hayes and the stained glass designer Louis Davis had all worked previously with Robert when they came together to create the Thistle Chapel for the knights of the Thistle who had not had their own chapel for over two hundred years. One thousand tonnes of stone was transported up the Royal Mile by a single driver and horse, two of the many anonymous figures to which we owe such an extraordinary building.
In the Scottish National War Memorial, Robert remembered the men and women of Scotland, as well as “the humble beasts that served and died.” The young Phyllis Bone was born into Robert’s family of craftsmen and provided models for the animals carved by Donaldson & Burns. She became the first woman member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1944, thirty-three years after the Thistle Chapel had been opened by King George V with extra security for fear of riots from the Suffragettes in 1911. Prof. Duncan MacMillan believes it was Alice Meredith Williams who proposed the panel which remembers the Scotswomen and their sacrifices. For his leadership of over two hundred people for the memorial, Robert received a KBE, having received his first knighthood for the Thistle Chapel. The plaque in St Giles’ Cathedral which remembers him was created “by his brother architects, craftsmen and friends.” Until the end of his days, Robert lived out his belief that a good architect “must be the man among his men; he may spend the morning in his studio, but he must spend the afternoon in the workshop.”
“I have been pouring my whole soul into this SNWM for the last 2 1/2 years and have been loyally supported by all the craftsmen who are working with me.”
- Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer, October 1926
Robert at his Carpentry (1885), John Henry Lorimer, Photo: © The National Trust for Scotland
Workshop of William Wheeler, Arncroach, Photo: © Alistair Drennan
Craftsmen of Ardkinglas House, Photo: © Ardkinglas
Craftsmen of the Thistle Chapel, Photo: © Louise Boreham
Learning from Family
As the youngest of six children, Robert Lorimer was taught not only by his parents but by his brothers and sisters. The eldest daughter Hannah, known as Lorrie, is likely to have encouraged Robert in his drawing and woodwork, pursuits she herself excelled in. Yet she was closest to John Henry, known as JH. Together, they made watercolours and oil paintings, delighting in each other's creations to the end. Robert and Louise were also very close, working together on the furnishings and garden of Kellie Castle. The family’s art forms a series of duets: Lorrie's embroidery design mirrored Robert’s stained glass window, while Robert's chairs were painted by JH in Grandmother’s Birthday. The tapestry of the family motto ‘Upward Onward,’ which furnished the Vine Room at Kellie, was also the result of a partnership between a brother and sister: Robert drew, Louise stitched.
JH was best known in his lifetime as a portrait painter, a skill he developed from an early age, founded on the patience and guidance of his family. His sisters in particular continued to pose for him throughout his career, often for more imaginative scenes, known as genre. These scenes sometimes featured furniture designed or collected by Robert. As young men, they traveled to France to frequent the antiques shops, boutiques and markets - brothers in search of buried treasure.
“At Chartres we had the luck to see the procession of the Fête-Dieu round the town led by girls in white dresses and veils, the smallest in front kept in line by ropes. Near us a mother on her doorstep, unable to control her emotion, jumped down, picked up her baby girl and gave her a kiss and popped her back into her place. My brother [Robert] never forgot this and frequently recounted it.” - John Henry Lorimer
Robert’s appreciation of beautiful and finely crafted materials was inherited by his son Hew. Hew considered himself a stone carver, founding his work in the skills of the craftsman, not the isolated ideas of the artist. He allowed his chisel to be guided by the material, not by pre-made clay models, a practice known as direct carving.
Stained Glass Window (1894), Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer, Earlshall Castle, Photo: © Charlotte Lorimer
Embroidery (1894), Hannah Lorimer, Kellie Castle, Photo: © Charlotte Lorimer
Chair, designed by Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer, made by William Wheeler, Private Collection,
Photo: © Charlotte Lorimer
Grandmother’s Birthday (1893), John Henry Lorimer, Musée d’Orsay, Photo: © Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais
Upward Onward Design for bed hanging, Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer, Kellie Castle, Photo: © Charlotte Lorimer
Upward Onward bed hanging, Louise Lorimer, Private Collection, Photo: © Charlotte Lorimer
Sir Robert Stodart Lorimer as a Boy (1876), John Henry Lorimer, Tate Collections, Photo: © Tate
Hew Lorimer carving the third-scale Our Lady of the Isles (1956), Kellie Castle, Photo: © National Trust for Scotland