While the Studio is of interest in its own right as a place where Lamb created so many of his wonderful pieces – the jewel in this particular crown has to be the extraordinary collection of Lamb art pieces available to view - and view in one place.
There is a strong tradition of access to the Studio being free of charge, so that it is possible for people to make repeat visits and see the collections in changing light conditions – allowing both the subtlety and skill of Lamb’s modelling to become more fully apparent.
The Studio collections represent an incomplete part of the Lamb pieces now held in the Angus Council Collections, but many of his finest pieces are here. There are works across all Lamb’s artistic genres – sculpture, drawing, painting, etching, leatherworking – and they represent, and range across, his full adult working life to pieces left incomplete on his death. Together this collection is breathtaking, awe-inspiring and deeply inspirational to many.
The art collections are now substantially larger than the original bequest as they are continually enhanced by donations of pieces. Much of this generosity reflects that Lamb preferred using locals as models. Many are from families, not always still in Montrose, but who still maintain close links with town, Studio and the Friends. As recently as October 2016 three new bas reliefs were donated and added to the Studio displays. In late 2016, too, the Friends commissioned a casting of “the Aberdeenshire Carrier” to celebrate their 40th anniversary. More lesser pieces and Lamb ephemera have since been donated.
Before you even get in the door please stop and view “Le Parasseur” Lamb’s life size model of a boy quietly sitting and enjoying the sun. Jimmy Finlay from Ferryden was the model for this, as he was for a number of other pieces in the Studio. This is generally believed locally to be Lamb’s finest piece as the caress marks on his knee testify. The plaster copy is on display at Dunninald, nearby.
of his larger working equipment – his printing press, clay bins,
work plinths and tables, drawing boards – have been dispersed over
the years, but in the Studio his hand made “acid etching bath”
and his wheeled “plaster bin” still survive. A display case
contains some of his modelling tools and one surviving etching plate.
Often overlooked, due to the prominence of Lamb’s sculptures, are a series of portfolios – these contain over 1700, studies and drawings in pen and ink. Many of them date to 1922-23 when Lamb travelled to France and Italy to teach himself more about art – as he recovered from yet another operation on his hand. Some are trial sketches of scenes beside the River Seine – horses (from all perspectives), the working men – heads, feet, hats and stances. Others are rural scenes – an ox being shooed for example to detailed rural or village and city landscapes. Lamb used these images in many of his later etchings – so the preparatory drawings and designs can sit in these portfolios – a few of these are displayed on the Studio walls as are a range of Lamb’s later watercolours mostly depicting Angus rural scenes.
and etchings: there is a series of Lamb watercolours – often
believed not to be his best – mounted on the walls of the rooms in
the Studio. Most of them are local scenes – the Angus countryside
that Lamb looked to for inspiration. Many reflect his interest in
depicting ordinary working people about their business (mostly
fishing). Most of them are “late” pieces. They show Lamb’s
extraordinary use of colour to create the texture of landscape, water
and light. There are also a small number of Lamb’s framed etchings
in the “studio” room.
Sculptures: in the Studio are a range of sculptures – bas-reliefs, portrait heads, torsos and full figures from about 40 cm high to “larger than life” size (his “Titans”). They are modelled in bronze, wood, plaster, stone and one unique piece is in an early version of “plasticine”. The range covers commissioned portraits and designs of Lamb’s choice. Many will have been on exhibition at national galleries during Lamb’s lifetime, others are relatively unknown.
Plasters: There are five plaster pieces on display in the Studio. Lamb would have created plaster “positives” that could be used to cast his bronzes. But sealed with his “secret” recipe of linseed oil and other ingredients, they were rendered more waterproof and can survive for a substantial period of time with care. Lamb – when space permitted – retained the plasters of his more significant pieces that had already been cast, but he held a larger number of pieces that had not been through that process for lack of finances or opportunity. It must be remembered though that some of the pieces, particularly the bas-reliefs, were never intended to be cast into bronze. When the Studio passed into Museum Service management there was a larger collection of plasters in the Studio, but over the years there has been a policy to cast all the pieces to bronze (if possible) allowing them to be displayed and the more fragile plasters to be removed to the Museum stores for safe keeping. The three “Titans” are in the Studio still with the cast bronzes, made than 50 years after Lamb’s death, are positioned around the town at the beach, harbour and High Street centre. A fourth piece – “Ferryden Fisherwomen” has been cast and placed on display in that village. Upstairs is the plaster of Lamb’s nephew “Captain David Lamb, MC” who looks across the room to his bronze double.
Bronzes: there are around 50 bronzes in the Studio dating from the First World War years to the 1940s. They range across royalty (the Duchess of York, and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret Rose), “celebrities” (Violet Jacob, David Foggie, Hugh MacDiarmid and Edward Baird) to ordinary working people of the town. There are way too many to describe here – but look at the full inventory still being developed and posted under “Studio Collections”
Wood: Lamb was a competent practical carpenter from an early age but we get the first report of him carving wooden sculptures in the 1930s with a first major commission for St Mary’s Church, Newport in Fife. BY the Second World War Lamb being subject to wartime restrictions on casting is producing larger numbers of wooden pieces. He started exhibiting them in the latter years of the war & they were hailed as significant because of his ability to create a sense of weather and atmosphere within the constraints of the material. He continued to create pieces after the war too including a wedding present in 1947 for the Princess Elizabeth. Not all the pieces in the Studio are in good physical condition, reflecting the difficulties of Lamb in sourcing good quality wood sources during the war. But together they show Lamb’s developing techniques and style in wood.
Stone: Lamb, of course, trained as a monumental mason, but following his war injures to his right hand that left permanent nerve damage, working in stone would have been more of a challenge. Throughout the Studio the stone plinths on which portraits are mounted are Lamb’s work. Most of his other stone pieces would have been plaques or bas reliefs that were undertaken on commission and are generally elsewhere. But two are still in the Studio. There are three more significant pieces in the Studio that merit serious attention. Two “the quarryman” and “unfinished woman” show that had Lamb lived he was moving into entirely new routes of design. The third – “The Whisper” (with a copy outside Montrose Library” is one of his best loved pieces. Two women stand close in the wind looking out to sea. Otherwise named “The Moaning at the Bar” it speaks of the ones who wait at home while their men-folk are elsewhere, possibly at risk of never returning.
“Plasticine”: there is one model of this type in the Studio. Although we are told that Lamb used this for early pieces this is the only one known to have survived. It is believed to have been a study for a possible commission to be created in stone, possibly at more than life size. The piece – now entitled “Aberdeenshire Carrier” sits in the Studio beside a bronze copy – the latest piece cast and unveiled in 2017 to celebrate 40 years of the Friends. A second copy is in Montrose Academy where it is the annual “Lamb Art Prize” established in 2017.
There is also a display case in the Studio that holds one etching plate, a series of Lamb’s tools, the modelling pieces made by Lamb himself, and a few examples of his leatherworking. These were created after his training at Montrose Academy “Continuation Classes” which he attended after the war while recovering from his injuries. For fuller details of the pieces see our “Studio Collections” and “Collections Out” pages – still under construction – where we hope to post fuller details of all pieces with photos.
The Friends usually have a sales point in the Studio to raise funds. A range of our goods carry Lamb images. Look out for them when you visit.
The Friends are happy to discuss Lamb’s art and his models etc as part of our Studio tours. But please remember all detailed or specific questions around the “collections” should be addressed to ANGUSalive who manage the collections at Gill.Ross@angusalive.scot