Stanley Cursiter

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Sir Stanley Cursiter
Born (1887-04-29)April 29, 1887
Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland
Died April 22, 1976(1976-04-22)
Stromness, Orkney, Scotland
Nationality Scottish
Education Edinburgh College of Art
Known for Painting, Drawing, Author
Movement Futurism
Spouse(s) Phyllis Hourston
The Regatta, 1913, National Gallery of Scotland.

Stanley Cursiter CBE FRSE FRIAS FEIS RSA RSW (1887–1976) was a Scottish artist who played an important role in introducing Post-Impressionism and Futurism to Scotland. He served as the keeper (1919–30), then director (1930-48), of the National Galleries of Scotland, and as HM Limner and Painter in Scotland (1948–76).[1]


Born at 15 East Road in Kirkwall, Orkney Cursiter was educated at Kirkwall Grammar School before moving to Edinburgh, where he studied at Edinburgh College of Art. His early paintings were influenced by cubism, futurism and vorticism. During World War I he was in the Field Survey Battalion and developed new and faster methods for processing aerial photographs. In particular, he devised a clever method of projecting the photographic negative taken from a spotter plane which replicated the tilt present when the photograph was taken - the technique of single photo optical rectification.[2] This greatly speeded up the process of rapid fixing of enemy gun emplacements. During the War, he also learned to use radio (becoming President of the Edinburgh Radio Society).[3] He was demobilised in 1919 with two mentions in dispatches, and received a military OBE. He returned to his painting and adopted a more realist style.

Cursiter became an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1927, a full Academician in 1937 and served as Secretary to the Academy from 1953 to 1955. He was the first Secretary of the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland and was appointed Keeper of the National Galleries of Scotland in 1930, a post he held until 1948. That same year, he was granted the Freedom of Kirkwall and was appointed as the King's (later to be Queen's) Painter and Limner for Scotland, a position he held until his death.

He painted watercolour landscapes of East Lothian, Orkney and Shetland, and designed Saint Rognvald Chapel in St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall. He is particularly renowned for his portraits and is considered amongst the finest Scottish portraitists of the 20th Century. He painted 'Her Majesty The Queen receiving the Honours of Scotland' in the High Kirk of St Giles in 1953, this painting hangs on the Great Stair, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Cursiter was influential in the campaign to create a Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. He died in Stromness in 1976.

Landscape in the Orkneys, 1954.

Selected works[edit]

  • Rain on Princes Street, 1913
  • The Regatta, 1913
  • Villefranche,circa 1920
  • The Fair Isle Jumper, 1923
  • Geo at Yesnaby and Brough of Bigging, 1929
  • Window - Burnstane House, circa 1935
  • The Old Store, Stromness, 1950
  • The Honours of Scotland, 1954
  • Landscape in the Orkneys, 1954


  1. ^ Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783-2002: Biographical Index (PDF) I. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Retrieved 30 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "Stanley Cursiter's contribution" (PDF). Retrieved 3 March 2015. 
  3. ^ A Chasm in Time - Scottish War Art and Artists in the Twentieth Century, by Patricia R. Andrew, Birlinn Ltd., 2014. ISBN 978-1780271903

External links[edit]