Born in Bridge of Allan, Davidson began a seven year apprenticeship with silversmiths James Reid & Company in Glasgow at the age of eleven. In 1884, he was enrolled for evening classes at Glasgow School of Art, alongside a sixteen-year-old Charles Rennie Mackintosh, with whom he would later collaborate.
In the 1890s, Davidson set up a studio workshop with his younger brother, William, at 93 Hope Street, where he felt he was “discarding the apron of the workshop and donning the artist’s smock”. The brothers began to produce applied art wares, from jewellery to tea sets and mirrors. An exhibition held within their first year was a great success.
In 1892 the technical studios were opened at Glasgow School of Art and Fra Newbery, the director at the school from 1885 to 1918, persuaded Davidson to become an assistant instructor in the metalwork classes, initially for only one day a week. By 1899, however, he had become the full-time metalwork craft instructor.
Davidson’s work won silver medal at the Aberdeen Exhibition of Industry and Art in 1899. As a member of the Scottish Guild of Handicraft, he had pieces in their first show in 1902. In that year he also exhibited at the Turin and Cork International Exhibitions.
By now, Davidson was also executing various pieces to the designs of his compatriots, notably Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Jessie Marion King and the Newberys. For Mackintosh, he created the candlesticks for Miss Cranston’s home Hous’hill and with his brother, The Fleming Casket (now in the V&A), both circa 1909.
He wrote three books, the first of which, Educational Metalcraft (1913), became the standard text for the metalwork, jewellery and enamelling course at Glasgow School of Art and remained so even after he retired in 1935. After leaving the art school, he continued to make objects in various crafts, becoming more interested in wood carving in particular as he got older and he continued to exhibit right up until his last years.
On Wednesday 31 October, a Celtic Revival Silver Commemorative Plaque designed in 1945 by Peter Wylie Davidson for the Glasgow Catholic Youth Festival will be offered in our Decorative Arts: Design since 1860 auction.