George Wyllie the Glasgow-born sculptor has died at the age of 90 after a short illness. He was made an MBE in 2005 for services to the arts. Wyllie was best known for his large public sculptures which brought surprise and joy to people of all ages.
George Wyllie was born in 1921in Shettleston, Glasgow he residds in Gourock and worked as a customs officer before taking up art. He described himself as a “scull?tor”.
Over the years he produced a number of notable public works notably the Straw Locomotive and the Paper Boat. The Straw Locomotive consisted of a full size steam locomotive, constructed from straw, and suspended from the Finnieston Crane, by the River Clyde in Glasgow. The sculpture was built at the former locomotive works at Springburn, and suspended from the crane for several months during the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival, before being taken back to the Springburn site and ceremonially burnt. The 80-foot Paper Boat was exhibited at The Tramway in Glasgow and at other sites including a placement on the Hudson River in New York, for which visit it carried quotations from Adam Smith’s The Theory of Moral Sentiments. His Slap and Tickle Machine currently in the collection of the People’s Palace, Glasgow, and wind-up stainless steel palm trees and a sculptural bandstand featured in the café of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. Wyllie’s work can also be seen in the Clyde Clock (depicting a clock on running legs), outside Buchanan bus station and in the Monument to Maternity (depicting a huge nappy pin), on the site of the former Rottenrow Maternity Hospital. Collections: Glasgow Corporation Museum of Transport, Cheshire County Council, Glasgow Cathedral, St. John’s Kirk, Perth, St. Mary’s Hospital, Lanark, Mitchell Limited, Greenock, and public and private collections at home, USA and Sweden.
This year, sees a year-long celebration of Wyllie’s artistic legacy. Just last week, it was announced that his work was set to inspire a new generation, thanks to a major £158,510.00 award from the Year of Creative Scotland, 2012 and its First in a Lifetime Creative Experiences initiative. Last night Louise Wyllie, his elder daughter, said: “My father was delighted at all the developments which the Friends of George Wyllie have made in the last year in establishing his legacy and he was keen to know what was happening right up to the end.
“He was delighted about the latest news which will see us putting his life and work into the curriculum in Scottish schools and working with skilled shipyard workers in Inverclyde on the creation of giant question marks.
“He was so pleased with the idea of The Whysman Festival which is running throughout 2012 to celebrate his artistic legacy and just a couple of months ago he attended a small pre-opening party for the festival at The Collins Gallery for his archive exhibition, A Life Less Ordinary, I am so glad now that he saw the start of what is a year of celebration.“He really did live a life less ordinary. There was no-one else like him and I suspect there never will be.”
Arts writer, Jan Patience, Chair of the Friends of George Wyllie said: “George Wyllie was a remarkable artist who reached out beyond the confines of the art gallery scene and connected with real people all over the world through his thought-provoking art.“He had the knack of making you ask questions, of not accepting the status quo. His mind was constantly enquiring, and his art was constantly pushing out barriers. That is his legacy.”
Wyllie stood as a list candidate (Scottish Senior Citizen’s Unity Party (SSCUP)) for the West of Scotland region in the 2007 Scottish Parliamentary Election. He was also a past president of the Society of Scottish Artists and provides an award for an imaginative work at their annual exhibition. He has exhibited in the UK, Europe, India, and the US. Many of his monumental Scul?tures are permanently installed in urban settings around the world. He was awarded the MBE in the New Years Honours List 2005.