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Lost artworks go on show at last

The sister of eminent Scottish painter Sir William Gillies is to be celebrated as an artist in her own right at a new exhibition.

Ceramic tea set

Emma Gillies’ collection of vibrant ceramics was unearthed in Edinburgh College of Art after the key to a locked cupboard was traced earlier this year.

The collection - dating from the 1920’s and 30’s - will go on show for the first time at an exhibition in the University of Edinburgh’s Main Library.

They will be showcased alongside a number of William Gillies’ paintings in which many of Emma’s lively designs were featured.

Emma Gillies: Rediscovered

Emma Gillies: Rediscovered is on show at the University of Edinburgh’s Main Library from 5 December - 5 March; Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm.

Entry is free & open to the public.

Accomplished artist

Best known as William Gillies’ sister and muse for many Scottish artists’ work, Emma Gillies was also a student at Edinburgh College of Art and the Royal College of Art in London where she became an accomplished potter.

Gordon Brennan, Director of Undergraduate Studies at Edinburgh College of Art, recognised one of Emma Gillies’ ceramics from its presence in one of her brother’s still life paintings.

He then meticulously indexed all of the cupboard’s contents to identify her work and research the collection.

We knew Emma studied Ceramics at Edinburgh College of Art, but there is very little evidence of her work from her time here, so this discovery is very exciting. We hope the exhibition will help raise her profile as an artist as well as adding colour to the artistic landscape of 20th century Scotland.

Gordon BrennanEdinburgh College of Art

Renowned family

The Gillies family were well-known in Scotland’s art scene throughout the 20th century. As well as a revered artist, William Gillies taught at Edinburgh College of Art for 40 years and was Principal from 1960 until his retirement in 1966.

The exhibition also features some decorated pots by Emma’s sister Janet Gillies.

Emma’s work in ceramics was flourishing until she took ill at the age of 35 in 1936, when she died of a thyroid condition in what is now the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.

We still have a lot to learn about Emma as an artist. There are a number of unidentified markings on the bases of her work and any clues or suggestions from visitors to the exhibition would be warmly received.

Gordon BrennanEdinburgh College of Art

Photographs courtesy John McGregor

Related Links

Emma Gillies: Rediscovered - further information

Painting BA (Hons) at Edinburgh College of Art

Centre for Research Collections at the University

Edinburgh Collerge of Art

Library & University Collections blog