Architectural sculptor and leading Scottish advocate of ‘direct carving’ in stone. Born in Edinburgh, the second son of the architect Sir Robert Lorimer, he was educated at Loretto School, Musselburgh, East Lothian, and Magdalen College, Oxford. His original intention was to become an architect, but he switched to sculpture under the influence of Alexander Carrick at Edinburgh College of Art. His diploma work of a columnar mother and child won him the Andrew Grant Scholarship in 1933, and a travelling scholarship which enabled him to visit France and Italy (1934–35), after which he spent a short time studying with Eric Gill at Piggotts, Buckinghamshire. Although he remained ambivalent about Gill’s influence, he shared the English sculptor’s belief in the spiritual function of art, and his taste for a neo-Romanesque style as its natural mode of expression. A tour of the medieval churches of France, combined with the acquisition by the National Gallery of Scotland of a cast of Antoine Bourdelle’s La Vierge d’Alsace (1919–21), provided the inspiration for his masterwork, the 8.3-metre granite Our Lady of the Isles, erected in 1957 on the isle of South Uist amid intense controversy over the decision by the Ministry of Defence to site a guided missile range on the island. His also are the seven allegorical figures (1953–55) on Reginald Fairlie’s National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. For much of his life, Lorimer lived in the restored sixteenth-century Kellie Castle, near Pittenweem in Fife, now a National Trust for Scotland property with a permanent display of his work in his former studio. Elected Associate Royal Scottish Academician in 1946, and Royal Scottish Academician in 1957, he exhibited regularly at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts.
Bibliography: M. Forrest, ‘Our Lady of the Isles’, unpublished BA dissertation, Glasgow School of Art, 2011; P.J.M. McEwan, The Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture, Ballater, Aberdeenshire, 2004; R. McKenzie, Public Sculpture of Edinburgh (2 vols), Liverpool, 2018, vol. 1, pp. 14–15, 150, 152–55, 459, 461, 463, 469, 471, 482.
Ray McKenzie 2018