This minimalist piece consists of a rectangular area in the centre dominated by a thin wash of bright blue. The effect is almost transparent against the white canvas, which still shows through in places, although the stronger colour applied in places gives a rather marbled effect. This is characteristic of Baillie’s work, as he was primarily a watercolourist whose style is distinguished by intense, simple colour applied in broad areas. The viewer’s attention is focused on this large blue area that forms the manuscript of the title. Surrounding this is a border composed of mystical banners of vivid pure colour, suggesting an organic pattern. These abstract shapes seem to float around the edges of the painting and this sense of movement is emphasised by the fluidity of the brushstrokes.
Baillie tends to simplify his work but he uses the emotive effects of colour to evoke the sense and atmosphere of a place. He served in India with the army and later travelled to Mumbai and Kashmir. These travels served as a great source of inspiration for the vivid colours that make up this painting and show Baillie’s lifelong love of India. His tendency towards simplification, abstraction and his use of emblems, demonstrates how Baillie fuses style and subject to reflect what he sees and feels.
William Baillie was born in Edinburgh in 1923 and began his training at the Edinburgh College of Art in 1941. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War Two, when he was called up to serve in the Royal Corps of Signals where he intercepted Japanese codes for army intelligence, mainly in the Far East. He returned to complete his studies in Edinburgh between 1947 and 1950 where he was appointed to teach in 1960, remaining at the art college until his retirement in 1988. He held the post of president of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour between 1974 and 1988 and became president of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1990. William Baillie died in 2011.
"Amongst paintings of translucent and sensual beauty, his love of India produces a recurring theme of temples and altars, with offerings of fruit and flowers, many of them surrounded by delicate banners of colour." (Exhibition Catalogue, 1997)
William Baillie's Obituary in the Scotsman