Born in Paisley in Scotland, Alexander Goudie studied painting, drawing and sculpture at the Glasgow School of Art, where he won several awards. As a young artist he grew up admiring three great masters, John Lavery, George Henry and James Guthrie. These artists’ particular use of oil paint appealed to him, as well as their genre and realist subject-matter. He travelled to Paris in 1953 where he was impressed by the work of Courbet and Rodin, having little interest in contemporary art movements such as Futurism and Cubism. He was mainly interested in masterly but conventional art and spent some time in 1957 in Toledo and Madrid studying Velasquez and El Greco. He conducted an extensive painting tour of France the following year and in 1959 had his first visit to Brittany. He married Marie-Renee Dorval, a native of Brittany, in 1962.
The landscape and people of Brittany were to exert an important influence on Goudie’s work. He had a particular appreciation for the work of Paul Gaugin, who was also inspired by Brittany, and he had his first major exhibition of Breton paintings at the Scottish Gallery in 1966. He also had a career as a portraitist and he produced portraits of, amongst others, the Queen and the Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern. In 1970 he was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.
Although his most spectacular undertaking was the commission from Brittany Ferries to design the interior decoration of one of their ships, Le Bretagne, Goudie’s greatest artistic achievement was a cycle of paintings inspired by Robert Burn’s Tam O’Shanter. Completed in 1996, the series comprises 54 large paintings which brim with the energy of the original poem and are a culmination of a lifetime’s experience as a painter.
Goudie’s work encompassed many elements alongside portraiture such as pastoral realism, sculpture, ceramics and opera design.