The year 1952 marked a turning-point in Anne Redpath’s career: she had her first solo exhibition in London, at The Lefevre Gallery, became the first female painter to be elected a full member of the Royal Scottish Academy and moved to 7 London Street in Edinburgh’s New Town, which remained her home for the rest of her life.
During this period, foreign travel emerged as an important source of creative stimulus. In 1948, Redpath went abroad for the first time since returning to Scotland in 1934 after fourteen years spent in France. An extensive tour of Spain in 1951, a solo trip to Corsica in 1954 and a visit to the Canary Islands in 1959 were highlights of the decade. They inspired many works which were shown in frequent group and solo exhibitions in Scotland and England.
In 1955 Redpath suffered a coronary thrombosis and temporarily lost the use of her right arm. Undaunted, she learnt to paint with her left and, once recovered, thereafter used both interchangeably. A second thrombosis four years later brought a re-newed vigour to her work, which continued to focus on the genres of the still life, landscape and interior. She developed a new relationship with oil paint, often applied in generous quantities with a palette knife and enjoyed as much as for its materiality as for its colour. The resultant images introduced a level of abstraction previously unseen in her practice, which – whilst remaining figurative – pulsed with an energy beyond representation. In 1960, Redpath was elected an Associate member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, the first woman to achieve that rank since 1944 and the first Scots woman ever to be so honoured.
George Bruce explained the importance of Redpath’s late work, writing: ‘At the age of sixty-seven she had the freshness of a girl looking with delight on something she had never seen before, the craftsmanship of the long years of unceasing practice and self-criticism and a personal style which could take account in a single painting of the complex reality that presented itself for her brush to realise in paint. But, one immediately says, how simple to look at and how rich that enjoyment, how easy to be absorbed into the delightful world of her last years’ painting!’ (George Bruce, Modern Scottish Painters: Anne Redpath, Edinburgh University Press, 1974, p. 63).
Redpath’s death in Edinburgh in 1965 was marked by a memorial exhibition mounted by the Royal Scottish Academy, which went on to tour throughout the country of her birth.
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