Geddes – William Geddes (1840-84)

William Geddes was a self taught painter, bon viveur and bohemian. William was born in Blairgowrie (1841) and died in Blairgowrie (31 October 1884)

Early years

  • William was born in Blairgowrie in 1841 the son of the local stone mason William Geddes and his wife Agnes Ross
  • William would have attended the local school but received no formal artistic training
  • William trained as a house painter and decorator having been first apprenticed to G M Dickson in 1853 at 2/- (10p) per week
  • William spent some time in Edinburgh close to where his brother was a merchant in Leith after his apprenticeship finished
  • William may have taken some art lessons during this time
  • William exhibited at The Royal Scottish Academy’s (Opens in a new window) annual exhibition every year from 1865 until 1884 with the exception of 1881
  • William returned to settle in Blairgowrie in 1871/2

Artist, bon viveur and bohemian

  • William worked exclusively in oil paint
  • William’s earliest pictures are portraits and figure studies
  • William used his friends and family as models for these works
  • William was a keen fisherman and developed a reputation in later life for his paintings of fish
  • William kept a diary from which we know that he enjoyed drinking with his friends and playing billiards but was not over fond of attending church
  • William’s cottage in Blairgowrie became famous for its artistic and musical gatherings, with several distinguished Edinburgh based artists amongst his group of friends
  • William built a fish tank in his garden to keep specimens for painting, built a studio in the garden as well, and even kept a pet monkey
  • William was arrested in Paris in 1871 for sketching. He was mistaken for a spy
  • William had a family of 11 children and 2 of his sons followed in his footsteps, studying at art college
  • William’s eldest son was the well known watercolour painter Ewan Geddes RSW
  • William died as a result of complications arising from catching a chill while out fishing
  • William died aged only 44

Works by William Geddes in Perth Museum and Art Gallery

(It is not possible to show the entire collection at any one time. To view any material not on show please contact the Art Section to make an appointment)

Paintings

Title Type Date
Two Salmon Oil on canvas 1878
Unfinished study of a seated boy Oil on board about 1876
Portrait of the artist’s mother, Agnes Geddes Oil on canvas laid on panel about 1874
The artist’s son Tom playing the penny whistle Oil canvas about 1871
Problem No.1 – What Makes the Wind? Oil on canvas 1871
Portrait of the artist’s niece, Euphemia Geddes Oil on canvas laid on panel about 1870
The Village Auction Oil on canvas 1868
Thomas Lamb with wife and family on the lawn at Brewhead House, Birkhill Oil on canvas about 1867-9
Portrait of the artist’s brother, James Geddes, Merchant in Leith Oil on canvas laid on board not dated

Drawings

Title Type Date
Sketchbook containing sketches of a tour to Germany Graphite on paper about 1863
May Your Pouch Aye Hae a Coin In’t, A Guid New Year Pen and ink and wash  on card 1880 or 1881
The Day’s Catch Pen and ink on paper 1883

Related media

  • William Geddes’ Diary for 1880
  • Portrait Bust of William Geddes, Plaster, 1880 by Thomas Stuart Burnett (1853-88)

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