City Recorder: Alasdair Gray's drawings for the People's Palace go on display in Glasgow

By Jenni Davidson | 15 November 2011
A painting of a television studio in the 1970s with a woman in a pink suit and a man in a grey suit facing a bank of television screens.
Alasdair Gray, Malcolm Cooper and Fidelma Cook: Producer and Reporter in BBC News Gallery (1977). Ink, watercolour, acrylic and oil paint on paper© Glasgow Life
Exhibition: Alasdair Gray: City Recorder, Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, until June 10 2012

Alasdair Gray is best known as the author of the 20th century dystopian novel, Lanark, but he is also a prolific visual artist.

Gray attended Glasgow School of Art in the 1950s and became a scenery and portrait painter as well as an independent artist and writer. His books are full of his own original illustrations and his murals adorn walls all over Glasgow.

This display brings together all Gray's artwork from the collections of Glasgow Museums, including paintings, drawings and collages.

The exhibition features a selection of print illustrations from Lanark, but the largest body of work is Gray's depictions of Glasgow and its people in his job as City Recorder in the late 1970s.

In 1977, Elspeth King, the curator of the People's Palace, was concerned that the museum didn't have any artworks depicting Glasgow's people and places beyond the early 20th century. She commissioned Alasdair Gray to become the city's "artist recorder", documenting contemporary Glasgow in visual form.

In his year on the job he produced around 33 works for the Palace of typical or well-known Glaswegians going about their daily lives, as well as buildings and street scenes and together these form a portrait of Glasgow at that time.

The pictures provide a unique insight into a period when much of the old industrial Glasgow was being demolished. The exhibition is interesting both for fans of Gray's work and for its snapshot of Glasgow life in 1977, seen through his eyes.

  • Open 10am-5pm (8pm Thursday, 11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday). Admission free.
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