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Octogenarian Dundee artist Joe McIntyre stages last big solo exhibition in the city

As 83-year-old Dundee artist Joe McIntyre reflects on his 66 year career, would he do anything differently if he could do it all again?

83-year-old Dundee artist Joe McIntyre
83-year-old Dundee artist Joe McIntyre

Octogenarian Dundee artist Joe McIntyre has always been “very flattered” when his work has been compared with that of the late American realist painter and print maker Edward Hopper.

He insists he was painting his street scenes long before he heard of the man regarded as the most important realist painter of 20th-century America.

But as 83-year-old Joe puts on his last big solo commercial gallery exhibition in Dundee and stoically faces old father time, it’s the plight of some of the most needy people in the United States that are on his mind.

Dundee artist Joe McIntyre affected by plight of homeless in Philadelphia

While most of his final solo exhibition at Gallery Q features the type of creations that art collectors are familiar with, it also features one or two pictures from his forthcoming “down and out” series.

“I’ve been very very moved by the plight of the homeless people in America – especially in Philadelphia,” said Joe, who last visited America on a trip to New York eight years ago.

83-year-old Dundee artist Joe McIntyre at work in his studio

“I’ve been doing paintings on that to try and support these poor people.

“I was very moved by their plight.

“These pictures will be mainly for an exhibition at a future public gallery.

“But there’s one or two of the small ones in this exhibition.

The bigger ones, I’ll wait to show later on.

“I just want to show the plight and show the anguish that faces these people really.”

Joe McIntyre’s lifelong love of painting honed by some of the Dundee greats

Joe, who turned 83 in February, started painting in his home city 66 years ago.

He was taught and mentored by James McIntosh Patrick and Alberto Morocco, and his paintings have been bought by the royal family and displayed around the world.

Joe McIntyre – Spring Sunshine Logie Street. Image: Joe McIntyre

He’s spoken before about how he still gets most satisfaction exhibiting his paintings in his home city and painting scenes inspired by the lives of fellow Dundonians.

As he reflects on his long career, however, he reveals that if he had another 60 years ahead of him, he would “do things a bit differently”.

“I’d concentrate more on the emotional side of things,” he said.

“I’ve got a few paintings that do deal with the emotions in life like depression and anxiety and all these things.

“But of course these are not the sort of paintings people would want to buy, so I’ll keep them for a public gallery.”

Trademark sunshine and light at the heart of Joe’s Dundee exhibition

Joe reveals that the main bulk of his final solo exhibition features his trademark depictions of summer sunshine and light on the city of Dundee.

As well as the local scenes, there’s Parisian views.

When it comes to Dundee though, it’s the “very beautiful” light in the city that’s always captured his imagination.

“I feel that the sunlight and shadow have been my main theme over many many years,” he said.

Joe McIntyre – Early Sunday Morning Cafe Madrid

“And Dundee has always provided me with that kind of light that I need for the paintings.

“The light is quite strong and it’s got a lot of contrast with the shadows and things in that.”

How did Joe McIntyre get into painting?

Born in Dundee in 1940, Joe left school at 15 and worked at a variety of jobs for five years.

He started painting at 17.

His earliest work was inspired by his experiences of growing up in Lochee, where, as a young boy, he’d visit Dundee’s Mills Observatory.

As well as their major telescope, they had smaller telescopes that were open to the public to study the evening sky.

The Mills Observatory.

He was fascinated when he trained the telescopes on the night city and saw figures in shop doorways and shop fronts bathed in lamp light.

He found this truly magical and these images have stayed with him as a painter all his working life.

His artistic talents really took off aged 20, however, when he commenced studies at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and was fortunate to have the gifted artists Alberto Morocco and James Mcintosh Patrick as his tutors.

He worked very hard as a student and was the top student in his year graduating in 1964.

He was awarded a year of post graduate study and then awarded the Royal Scottish Academy students prize in 1965.

Dundee artist Joe McIntyre

From 1969-1989 he was curator of the Orchar Art Gallery in Broughty Ferry.

He then joined the part time teaching staff at the Art College in Dundee in 1972 and retired in 2007.

Accolades over the years include the RSA Students Prize; he was Principal Prize Winner in the Open Painting Competition, Arbroath, in 1969 and again in 1971, and The Pernod Open Painting Competition in 1973.

This was followed by The Robert Colquoun Art Prize in 1975, and The Arts Council Award in 1981.

Still life with fruit and flowers. Image: Joe McIntyre

He has regularly exhibited at galleries in Dundee, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Glasgow, as well as galleries in Philadelphia, Princeton and London.

His work can be found in collections including those owned by the late Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, the late Princess Margaret, City Chambers Dundee, Pernod in London, the Scottish Arts Council and Lincoln Center in New York.

What does Joe McIntyre enjoy about painting sunshine and lights scenes?

Lockdown gave him a renewed focus on the city of his birth and an opportunity to produce more work inspired by the city streets than he might otherwise have expected.

Sunlight and lamp light in the city have been his constant inspiration as a painter, drawing comparisons with Edward Hopper.

Whereas daylight “changes all the time”, he enjoys the “fixed light” of lamplight.

Joe acknowledges that his style has “obviously changed” over the years.

Low winter sun Panmure Street Dundee. Image: Joe McIntyre

He creates “atmosphere” in his paintings through highly skilled use of light and shade and a rich warmth through careful application of colour.

He has made “trademark” his pieces featuring figurative city life and at a level that his work is instantly recognisable to his many admirers and collectors.

But as a realist painter, he also prides himself on the fact his work is very accessible to the general public.

“It’s probably got a lot more detail now than my earlier ones,” he said.

“You have to see the perspective of something over time to get an idea of that.

All night cafe bar London by Joe McIntyre

“But I don’t think there’s been a huge change in what I’ve been doing.

“I’ve always been committed to realism, to things as they really are.

“That’s what I’ve been doing all my life.”

Joe enjoyed teaching and imparting knowledge to younger generations

During the 58 years Joe has been painting professionally, he regarded himself as having been fortunate to get some part time teaching at the college.

Even when he retired, he carried on teaching non-vocational students for some years beyond that.

He’s always enjoyed imparting his knowledge to people who are interested in producing their own paintings.

Summer in the city On the beach Portobello. Image: Joe McIntyre

Yet he’s never been one to impose his style on anybody. In his non-vocational classes, he tried “to get into the head of what they are doing and try to help them achieve what they want to achieve.”

For 30 years, Joe says he used to go outside and paint a lot.

While he still goes outside to paint “from time to time”, with the knowledge he’s built up over the decades, he can now confidently paint outdoor scenes without having to go out.

While he’s sold a lot over the years, the reality is “there’s not a huge amount of people buying art in Dundee”, he says. He adds that there’s “not a lot of money around”.

Sunshine and snow by Joe McIntyre

However, he was motivated to give Gallery Q this last commercial exhibition to “see how it goes”.

“I’ve had quite a few exhibitions over the years,” he said.

“I’ve showed in London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, RSA. I’ve showed almost everywhere I can think of in the last 60 years.

“But I’m just getting to the stage where it’s getting a bit difficult really to serve two masters.

“I can’t serve the commercial galleries because the commercial galleries are not interested in what I’m doing with the down and outs.

Figures in the evening The Rocks cafe bar Sydney Australia. Image: Joe McIntyre

“Obviously they are not things that people are going to hang on their walls.

“But I’m doing them anyway – not for the money or anything but because I feel passionate about these people’s situation.”

Why Joe McIntyre will continue to paint

Joe said he still paints all the time, and will continue to do so, because it’s who he is.

He describes himself as a “figurative painter who’s showing his own particular vision of the world”.

“I’m working almost every day,” he said.

“I’m very very fortunate at my age to be able to do that.

“I’ve got good eyesight and everything else.

“I thank God every day for the chance to go ahead with more and more work.

Joe McIntyre

“I couldn’t stop painting. I just keep on going with it. I really enjoy looking at things and doing things.

“I just feel painting is my life and it’ll be there until I go.

“Yes, I wish I had another 60 years and I would do things a bit differently!

“But as a painter, you get where you are. That’s as far as you can go.

“You can only do what you can. And that’s true enough.”

When to see Joe’s exhibition

Joe McIntyre: Sunlight & Shadow runs at Gallery Q, Nethergate, Dundee, until November 11.