John Duncan (painter)

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Isolde (detail from "Tristan and Isolde") by John Duncan, 1912
Aoife by John Duncan

John Duncan (1866-1945) was a Scottish painter.[1][2]


He was born in Dundee, Scotland in 1866. His father was a cattleman. John, however, had no interest in the family business and preferred the visual arts. By the age of 11 he was a student at the Dundee School of Art, then based at the High School of Dundee. He also studied at Antwerp School of Art under Charles Verlat.[2]

Called a madman by some and a mystic by others, Duncan admitted to hearing "faerie music" whilst he painted.[citation needed] Although his work remains strongly rooted in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, there is a certain graphical quality which sets it apart from his contemporaries and likens it to Art Nouveau, while the subject matter is thoroughly Celtic Revival —he is generally referred to as a "symbolist" by art critics.[citation needed] His interest in Celtic Revival was also shared by the Scottish singer Marjory Kennedy-Fraser; they eventually became close friends and Duncan painted her while on a trip to Eriskay in 1905.

His dreamy, mystical nature led him to fall in love with a woman whom he believed to have discovered the Holy Grail in a well in Glastonbury and who later divorced him. He was also a member of the Edinburgh Theosophical Society. He never remarried and died in 1945.[citation needed]


  1. ^ [1]Duncan works online at The Athenaeum
  2. ^ a b Young, Clara. "John Duncan". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Retrieved 27 January 2014.