IAIN MACNAB (1890 - 1967)

P.R.O.I., R.E. 


Iain Mcnab b. 1890 Scottish artist.gif






Modern 1900 - 1970


Bottom LHS



220 mm x 300mm


395 mm x 400mm





This watercolour painting of a Town Square shows MacNab's fluid impressionist painting style. There is a sense of motion to the trees which are painted leafless on an late autumn day and the black paint lines used to create the railings around the square and buildings are seen in other examples of Macnab's paintings. With simple lines, the stokes are bold but effective. The contrast in the paint gives this painting a moody autumnal atmosphere with vivid colouring - a lovely collectors piece

Iain Macnab was a Scottish Wood-engraver and painter.

Born in Iloilo in the Philippines on 21 October 1890 to Scottish parents, the son of John Macnab of the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank.  The family moved to Scotland when he was young.

He was one of the most original printmakers of twentieth century

MacNab was educated in Edinburgh before studying at Glasgow School of Art and then Heatherley’s in 1918. 

He was appointed principal of Heatherley’s School of Art between the wars and later founder principal of the Grosvenor School of Modern Art. He exhibited at all the major public venues, including the Royal Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Glasgow Institute and the Royal Institute of Painters in Oil of which he served as president for nearly twenty years. His work can be found in the permanent collections of the V & A, the British Museum and the Ashmolean, Oxford.

As a prominent teacher he was influential in the development of the British school of wood-engraving. His pictures are noted for clarity of form and composition.

He was the founder and principal of the famous Grosvenor School of Modern Art, the school at which the art of original linocut was first pioneered in this country. Iain Macnab was an exceptional draughtsman and a highly versatile artist whose particular talents included wood engraving, linocut, lithography and painting. One of the most influential teachers of his era, Iain Macnab gathered around him a group of brilliant and innovative artists who taught every medium of graphic art at his school. Iain Macnab’s particular stress was towards the rhythm of a composition and the way in which lines of force were distributed around a balancing dividing line. He regarded graphic art as a form of aesthetic abstraction which should possess its own harmony and movement, based upon rhythms and counter-rhythms of sweeping line, or upon carefully organised sequences of differing planes of colour.


Iain Macnab analysed his concept of rhythm as follows: “If we draw three lines, horizontal, vertical and oblique, of these, the first two will appear static, although the oblique line will give a certain indication of movement; but if we curve this oblique line so that it becomes roughly about a quarter of a circle we find that we have increased its apparent movement, largely owing to the tendency of the eye to run along a curved line. If we repeat parallel lines, we make simple harmony. If we repeat parallel lines in an ordered sequence we create a rhythm”. It is upon this conception, developed by Iain Macnab, that all Grosvenor School linocuts are based.

Iain Macnab propounded this approach to art with unremitting force and these ideals are reflected in the work of the teachers whom Macnab gathered together at his school. Claude Flight, Cyril Power and Sybil Andrews were the key figures whom Iain Macnab chose to assist with his pioneering style of artistic education. He continues to be a very collectable artist