Artwork of the Month: Iris and Jug by William James Baillie

12 July 2021
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Every month we highlight an artwork from our hospital art collection

Our Artwork of the Month for July comes from guest contributor Lucy Ribeiro, artist educator and Creative producer working within the cultural and clinical sectors. Encompassing the St George’s Arts Week theme for 2021 of nature, Lucy has chosen a floral still life from our collection.

About the painting
This painting shows a still life with a vase of blue irises on the left, and a blue and white ceramic jug on the right. At first glance the work may seem minimal, however on closer inspection it reveals more to the viewer.

Baillie has carefully mapped out his still life, the vase of irises and jug are in the foreground of the painting. He has positioned the vase close to the viewer to reveal the top of its highly decorated pink and orange neck. Our main focus is directed to the seven irises in bloom, attached to their fine green stems. The irises stretch across the entire left hand side of the painting. To the right we see what looks like a traditional fine bone china jug with its delicate white and blue flower motif and dark cobalt blue handle and fluted spout.

Iris and Jug by William James Baillie, 1982, Oil on canvas, 94 (h) x 120 (w) cm

Iris and Jug by William James Baillie, 1982, Oil on canvas, 94 (h) x 120 (w) cm

Baillie’s still life painting is set against a vibrant orange background. Above and below the painted objects are two bands of roughly brushed rectangular dashes of red, pink, green, orange and blue. Next to the coloured bands are two orange stripes outlined in white. These bands and stripes cut across the painting from edge to edge creating a window or frame for the viewer.

The painting is characteristic of the artist’s work - strong saturated colour applied in broad areas, with abstract sections of jewel like colour. Baillie achieved this effect by painting with very thin oil paint on white primed canvas. The paint is applied like watercolour and becomes transparent with the white primed canvas showing through.

There is a hint of abstraction in the bands that frame his picture. Baillie’s still life paintings convey a strong sense of place using vibrant colours and patterns. He was highly influenced by the prayer flags, offerings and shrines that he saw during his travels to India. His still life artworks clearly reflect his love of India and the tradition of still life painting, using everyday objects from Scotland.

About the Artist
William James Baillie (b. 1923 - d.2011) was born in Edinburgh where he trained and later taught at Edinburgh College of Art. Baillie spent time in the Royal Corps of Signals between 1942-47, his inspiration from travel to India is reflected in his works.

Baillie held the post of president of both the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour and Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture and was elected Honorary Royal Academician in 1991. His work can be seen in many public collections including Aberdeen Art Gallery, Glasgow Art Gallery, Kirkcaldy Art Gallery, City of Edinburgh Collection and the Royal Scottish Academy.

Join Lucy to slow down, take notice and spend more time with this artwork during a Mindful Looking & Drawing Workshop as part of Staff Arts Club on Thursday 22 July. Find out more and book.


This is just one of over 800 works of art that make up our hospital art collection. The artworks on public display around the hospital create spaces that are engaging, welcoming and compassionate.

Arts St George’s is the arts programme for St George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and part of St George’s Hospital Charity.

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