This spring Duff House hosts D.Y. Cameron: The Spirit of Line. This exhibition, on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland, features 30 works by this celebrated Scottish artist and will occupy the entire second floor exhibition space. But who was D.Y. Cameron?
David Young Cameron (1865–1945), popularly known as D.Y. Cameron (he didn’t think David suited him), was born and raised in Glasgow and trained at the Glasgow School of Art and Edinburgh. He is often identified as one of the famous and very popular set of painters known as the ‘Glasgow Boys’, but was in fact only ever on the group’s fringes and was 8 years younger than the majority of the Boys. Cameron was, and is, best known for his work not as a painter but as one of the most superb etchers ever to come out of Scotland. His subject matter ranged from motifs on buildings, to city views and his mountain vistas which, for many, represent the archetypical vision of the Scottish Highlands.
It is Cameron’s etchings which form the main focus of this exhibition. Etching involves the artist drawing onto a metal plate which has been coated with a thin layer of acid-resistant resin or wax. When acid is applied, the design which has been scratched into the coating becomes corroded into the metal plate itself. This is cleaned, inked and wiped, so that the remaining ink sits within the lines of the design. A sheet of paper is then placed against the plate and both are rolled through a press, to produce the print. Cameron created an astonishing five hundred and twenty or so etchings from the beginning of his career to the end – many of his most famous etched works are on display in the exhibition. There are also three stunning watercolours by the artist, who was surprised at how popular these were with collectors and critics, and described them as ‘My simple things, just impressions of beautiful days and places’.
The title ‘Spirit of Line’ refers to the etching technique but also to Cameron’s own very characteristic delicate and simplified style. In both his etchings and his paintings, Cameron eliminated trivial detail in order to create restrained, balanced and beautiful compositions which, to this day, remain amongst the most poetic images seen in British printmaking.