An awareness of, and interest in, industrial and architectural/building heritage was attributable in part to the views of the artist John Piper (1902-1992) who argued that much of England's man-made environment, and therefore social history, was being ignored by artists.
This influenced Tom Gourdie to be aware of his own contemporary surroundings in Scotland, and to take an interest in the recording of day-to-day street scenes - including buildings due for slum clearance - and industrial sites such as the mills at Kirkcaldy and Leslie.
He also made a point of recording views of the various coal mines around Cowdenbeath, Kelty, Lochgelly and Lochore (Jenny Gray, the Nellie, the Wee Mary, Glencraig, and the Aitken pits) and he actually started that particular exercise as early as 1929/1930 when he was still at school.
Most of these paintings of industrial subjects, many of which were demolished by the late 1960s, date from between 1946 and 1954.
There was almost an instinct for views which would soon disappear as a result of redevelopment and demolition (or "improvement" as some would have us believe!). Thus there are street scenes of Kirkcaldy, Burntisland, Banff, Dunbar, Dalgety Bay, Kinghorn, Limekilns etc etc dating to the late 1940s and 1950s which might have appeared mundane at the time but which record views which have long since gone or, at the least, have been substantially changed. Very few people will now remember the old Philp Hall, or the old gasworks, or Bell Wynd - all in the Links Street part of Kirkcaldy. Or the way Bethelfield used to look... Or the red-pantiled houses, uneven pavements, and cobbled road in Charlotte Street in 1954... Or Burntisland High Street at Lothian Street as it was in 1950... Or St David's Harbour (Dalgety Bay) in July 1945...
Then there are views of the postwar prefab houses in Earn Road, Kirkcaldy (Gallatown) painted in 1948 and 1949. These too are long gone, demolished in the 1960s to make way for new modern flats. A very mundane subject at the time - how many people would have sat at the front door to paint an everyday street scene? - but now very interesting simply because it no longer exists.
In some cases it is just possible that, despite the relative ease of photography, even in the 1940s and 1950s, many of Tom Gourdie's paintings are the only record of what used to be.
Other paintings record scenes which still exist and the attraction of these paintings is that they freeze a moment in time and show how little some views have changed even after more than half-a-century. Thus we have little change in the appearance of Falkland Palace between 1957 and now, and Leuchars Church is still as it was when painted in 1942 when the artist was serving at RAF Leuchars. The views of Dysart Cross and St Serf's Tower - both from 1949 - are other fine examples of little change over the years although the St Serf's painting includes some of the long-gone surface structure of the Lady Blanche pit.
There are few rural scenes among the watercolours, the only real country scenes being the village green and schoolhouse at Oldhamstocks (1956) and "The Round House" near Eyemouth (1958).
As a consequence of a new interest in 35mm colour transparency photography in the late 1950s and the purchase of a Rollei SLR in 1959, in addition to the ever-increasing importance of his calligraphy work, Tom Gourdie's watercolour painting went into immediate and sharp decline.
However, he did still periodically draw and paint, and his pen and ink drawings of Fife and the Orkney Islands were all done between 1967 and 1975. These ink drawings are characterised by a style which is clearly influenced by calligraphy and the formation of letters with thick and thin strokes and they are interesting in their own right both in terms of subject matter and style. Period details are captured - for example, a sketch of Anstruther (1975) records the redundant North Carr Lightship, berthed in the harbour as a tourist attraction before it was removed to Dundee where it remains to this day.
A significant Orkney image in wax crayon is perhaps his last coloured artwork - anything after this seems to be pen and ink only. It dates from 1970 or 1971 and it is a poignant picture of the grounded and slowly disintegrating SS Irene which ran aground on South Ronaldsay in a ferocious storm in March 1969. Tragically this resulted in the loss of the crew of the Longhope Lifeboat.
Last, but not least, there is a handful of wartime paintings which reflect the time served in the RAF between 1940 and early 1946. Perhaps the most impressive is the painting of U.S. Air Force Dakotas awaiting D-Day, under a dark storm-laden sky on an airfield somewhere in Southern England.
FOOTNOTE - IMAGES ON SITE
You will find a wide range of reproduction pictures on site. The following is a short summary:-
Anstruther - Scottish Fisheries Museum, North Carr Lightship
Banff - Harbour, from Banff Academy
Burntisland - The Green Tree Pub, High Street and Lothian Street
Cellardykes - Harbour
Ceres - Old Bridge
Crovie - Banffshire
Culross - Town House, Town Square
Dunbar - Harbour
Dura Den (Ceres Cupar)
Dysart - Town Hall Cross Tolbooth, St Serf's Tower
Falkland - Palace, High Street, the Square, Horsemarket
Kinghorn - Pettycur and Burntisland, view across Forth to Inchkeith from South Overgate
Kirkcaldy - Bethelfield, Charlotte Street / Cowan Street, Links Street, Linktown, Port Brae, Heggie's Wynd, Bell Wynd, Nelson Court, Philp Hall, Gasworks, West Bridge Mill, Harbour, Sailor's Walk, Gallatown, Esplanade
Leslie - Prinlaws, Flax Mill
Leuchars - Parish Church (St. Athernase)
Lochgelly and surrounding Pits - Aitken, Glencraig, Jenny Gray, Nellie, Wee Mary, Winter 1947
Markinch - Balbirnie House
Oldhamstocks - Village School and Green
Orkney - Longhope Lifeboat
Shetland - Scalloway Castle
St Abbs - Harbour
West Wemyss - Chapel Garden, Coxstool, Gasworks