Born in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, the son of the sculptor William Ewan Macgillivray, he trained in the Edinburgh studio of William Brodie from the age of thirteen and in Glasgow with the ornamental plasterer James Steel, for whom he executed the interior decoration and carved elephant on the Scotia Theatre, Stockwell Street (renamed the Metropole, destroyed 1961). He later assisted John Mossman before becoming an independent sculptor with a studio at 112 Bath Street, Glasgow. A prolific portraitist, he produced busts and medallions of many of the leading artists and public figures of the day, such as Joseph Crawhall (1881), Sir John Lavery (1888), and Sir George Reid (1894), as well as numerous funerary monuments, including those to the architect James Sellars in Lambhill Cemetery, Glasgow (1890), and the philanthropist Beatrice Clugston in the Auld Aisle Cemetery, Kirkintilloch, East Dunbartonshire (1891). His small-scale pieces are well represented in collections in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, though his public works are less common. The most important of these include the monuments to William Ewart Gladstone, Coates Crescent Gardens, Edinburgh (1902–17), Robert Burns, Irvine, North Ayrshire (1895) and Lord Byron, Aberdeen (modelled in 1914; cast by Alexander J. Leslie in 1920). A painter, philosopher, musician and poet as well as a sculptor, he was a close associate of the group of artists known as the ‘Glasgow Boys’ and a co-founder of the Scottish Art Review. He also wrote a report for the Scottish Education Department, which contributed to the establishment of Edinburgh College of Art, and was active in the affairs of the Royal Scottish Academy. In 1921 he was appointed the King’s Sculptor in Ordinary in Scotland, the first to hold the post since Sir John Steell.
Sources: McEwan, P.J.M., The Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture, Ballater, Aberdeenshire, 2004; Melville, J., Pittendrigh Macgillivray, Aberdeen, 1988; Spielmann, M.H., British Sculpture and Sculptors of To-day, London, Paris, New York and Melbourne, 1901, p. 151; Scotsman, 30 April 1938, p. 17a-c. (obit.); Woodward, R.L., ‘Nineteenth-Century Scottish Sculpture’, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh, 1977, pt 2, pp. 134-43.
Ray McKenzie 2018
Anonymous, James Pittendrigh MacGillivray with a statuette of Lord Byron in the background (date unknown); Scottish National Portrait Gallery
(photo: Creative Commons CC BY-NC)