The Old Course – St. Andrews: classic and contemporary paintings by Davy Macdonald @ Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Art history: ‘the study of aesthetic objects and visual expression in historical and stylistic context.’

Davy Macdonald is a most innovative artist, specialising in dramatic scenes, inspired by meticulous research into Scottish cultural heritage: Herring Lassies, Harris Tweed, Gothic Edinburgh.  This exhibition showcases a diverse range of his artwork, both realism and abstract, but centre stage is a new and topical Figurative theme, The Old Course – St. Andrews.

The 1st Open Championship was played at Prestwick in 1860, with just eight players; in July 2022, the 150th Open featuring 156 players in the field, aptly took place at the world’s Home of Golf.   Cameron Smith produced one of the all-time great rounds in Open Championship history to pip Rory McIlroy to glory at St. Andrews.

Davy Macdonald has researched the cultural golfing heritage of St. Andrews with meticulous and magical detail.  In the first half of the 20th century, Staycation in the British Isles meant visiting the seaside on day trips or holidays and travelling by train was imaginatively promoted through colourful advertisements.

LNER travel poster for St. Andrews, A.C. Michael (1933)

This evocative poster for the London & North Eastern Railway, dating from 1933 and designed by the Welsh artist, Arthur C. Michael features two golfers with their caddies, teeing off in front of The Royal and Ancient Clubhouse. West Sands is visible in the background.

The fabulous fashion and leisurely lifesetyle of the 1920s and 1930s are beautifully illustrated in these attractive vintage and now extremely valuable travel posters.

With his own inimitable style, Davy Macdonald has created his own stunning series of paintings depicting a line up of women golfers enjoying Tee Time around the Old Course. Against a threatening grey sky, this determined lady, dressed warmly in a red sweater and plaid skirt, eyes up her shot with a follow through of her club. Beyond are the rolling sand dunes and in the background, the church spires and castle of the old town.  

Old Course, # 1 Davy Macdonald

Here she is again, with no caddy to carry her golf bag, standing proudly on the Swilcan Bridge with neat, period detail of her curled hair, tasseled white shoes and ankle socks. This iconic bridge, beloved by golfers worldwide, was built over 700 years ago so that shepherds could move their flock across the Swilcan Burn which meanders across what is now the 1st and 18th fairways.  

Swilcan, Davy Macdonald

While Mary Queen of Scots played on the historic links in 1567, golf here has has long been a traditional sport for gentlemen. Finally eight years ago, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club (founded 1754) decided to allow women to join the Club for the first time. In another railway poster, men and women enjoy a round of golf in the sunshine.

Vintage LNER poster to promote golfing holidays in St. Andrews

Refreshments are essential after a round of 18 holes and The Jigger Inn (1850s) was the Stationmaster’s lodge. The Old Course Resort is built on the site of the former train station which sadly closed in 1969.  This cosy pub is decorated with golfing memorabilia, open-hearth fires, hearty good food, Scottish beers and their own Jigger Ale. Here, a young girl poses elegantly with her club over her shoulder as she heads jauntily into what’s known as the 19th Hole!.

The Jigger Inn, Davy Macdonald

The pioneering and influential Abstract artist Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, (1912-2004) was born in St Andrews and attended Edinburgh College of Art in the 1930s before moving to St. Ives. Her love of the sea shore is captured in her minimalist drawings, such as West Sands (St. Andrews) and North Sea Fife.

Inspired by Barns-Graham’s linear meditations on waves, sand and wind, Macdonald also relishes the freedom of non-realistic expression to depict a sense of rhythm and energy, such as the swirl of blues and sunshine yellow in Flow #1.

Flow #1 Davy Macdonald

I am fascinated by the power of nature such as skies, seas, atoms and galaxies all in constant change.  My current approach is to work with both hands simultaneously with willow charcoal sticks, brushes or palette knives .. a duet, comparable to a pianist or drummer, both hands working independently yet together creating balance’. Davy Macdonald

Likewise, Flow #3, a mesmerising maze of apparent, ad hoc, quick, red and grey brushstrokes, balanced by a scatter of precise, bold black lines – horizonal and perpendicular.  As the eye follows the ebb and flow of shape and space, there’s a soft jazzy rhythm lurking here in its improvised pattern.      

Flow #3 Davy Macdonald

Having viewed his previous Abstract paintings in recent years, once again, Davy has a real touch of Jackson Pollock (with a more controlled structure), as well as the fluid grid patterns of early Mondrian (e.g. Sea and Starry Sky, 1915).

The truly modern artist has been inspired more by the beauty of lines and color and the relationships between them than by the concrete subject of the picture.”  Piet Mondrian

As well as original paintings, the decorative designs of the Flow series would create most attractive fabric, textiles and wallpaper.

A large scale, (6 – 4 foot) Abstract composition, Among the Floe, is extremely impressive in both inventive design and experimental technique.  A floe is a sheet of floating ice, all the more visible due to the melting of glaciers and icebergs from the Patagonian Fjords to the Polar Regions.  A flurry of brash brushstrokes splash icy streaks of thick white paint across the canvas with an effective sense of dramatic mood and movement.  


The exhibition also includes work from previous Figurative series, such as At the End of the Day and Herring Lassies at the Harbour Wall – portraits of fisherwomen whose bandaged fingers are the result of shucking oysters, gutting and salting the herring. 

This new collection of nostalgic, vintage scenes of the Old Course, St. Andrews juxtaposed with modern Abstract Expressionism illustrate Macdonald’s evolving, imaginative style and aesthetic vision criss-crossing the world of art history.

Visit the Dundas Street Gallery this week to view these contrasting classic and contemporary original paintings as well as Limited Edition Prints on paper and canvas.

The Old Course – St. Andrews

Dundas Street Gallery, 6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6HZ

21 – 31 July, 2022; open 10am – 6pm, daily.

Herring Lassies at Harbour Wall, Davy Macdonald

About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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