George Houston (1869 – 1947), renowned landscape artist from Dalry.
George Houston was born on 20th January 1869 in New Street, Dalry. His parents were George, a Flesher (in today’s terms a Butcher) and Mary Douglas a dealer in spirits. About 3 years after George’s birth the family moved to Green Street in Saltcoats and a year later to Countess Street (incidentally the same street where the Glasgow Boy artist Sir John Lavery* lived when he was younger – see our previous post on him.)
George attended the Saltcoats Public School where his gift for drawing was noted and nurtured. He was friends with the Stevenston artist James Wyllie* who recalled how they would draw and paint together. George spent his younger days between Saltcoats and Dalry exploring the local landscapes which obviously made and impression as he painted images of them as an adult.
He left school in 1883 and started working for the Citizen newspaper in Glasgow as a printer’s apprentice where he trained in etching and lithography. Whilst in Glasgow George was also a part-time student at Glasgow School of Art where he attended drawing classes. He left in 1885 and by 1889 he was married and a father. His wife was Anne Kerr Crawford from Dalry and their marriage lasted 58 years and brought them 6 daughters and 4 sons.
Whilst working at the Citizen George contributed line drawings to illustrate poetry, small-scale rural scenes and drawings of local landmarks from photographs. His family was growing with the birth of his children and they left St. Vincent Street in Glasgow where they’d been living and moved to Chapleton Cottage, West Kilbride. George described himself as a “lithographic artist” and was going door to door selling his drawings and etchings for half a crown.
In time George was to become friends with the writer and journalist Neil Munro (famous for being the author of the “Para Handy “ stories) and together they collaborated on “Ayrshire Idylls” – a collection of stories written by Neil and illustrated by George. He would go on to travel to Japan, Canada and the US with his friend William Weir and these visits would reflect in his paintings.
In 1926 he purchased West Lynn in Dalry where he would spend the rest of his life with his wife and family, dying there on the 5th of October 1947 aged 78 years old.
He was an elected member of Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours (RI), Royal Sottish Academy (RSA) and Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolours (RSW). He served on various art councils, committees and institutes and he also taught at the Glasgow School of Art in his later years. He was the Chairman of the Dalry Burns Club from 1906-07 and exhibited his work throughout the country.
North Ayrshire Council has various paintings, etchings and drawings by George in their collection.