“French Town” by Earl Haig

“French Town” by Earl Haig

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Artist: Earl Haig (George Alexander Eugene Douglas “Dawyck” Haig, the 2nd Earl Haig), 1918-2009
British Artist
Bemersyde, England

Medium: Watercolor, Framed

Size: 21 x 25″


Dawyck Haig, the second Earl Haig, who has died aged 91, spent a lifetime struggling to decide whether he was primarily a fine modern painter or the son of Field Marshal Douglas Haig, Britain’s commander-in-chief in the First World War. After an early breakdown, his psychoanalyst recommended that Dawyck should concentrate on his painting.

This he did, and he began exhibiting soon after the Second World War. He had his first London exhibition at the Redfern Gallery in 1949 and at the Scottish Gallery in Edinburgh the same year. It was not until 1956, however, when one of his portraits was sold at auction at Christie’s along with works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Hogarth and Reynolds, that he really made his name as an artist. Later, he occasionally sold works to the royal family. The Duke of Edinburgh bought one for £750, but admitted it had been on behalf of the Queen, because “I can’t afford to buy pictures.” Haig’s work is now in the collections of the Arts Council and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and last year a retrospective of his work, Haig at Ninety, was held at the Scottish Gallery.

Haig’s split personality was not helped by living for most of his life at Bemersyde, a 14th-century house near Melrose in the Scottish borders that, although it had been in the Haig family for 800 years, was purchased from a cousin for his father by a grateful nation in 1921, along with 1,500 acres. Dawyck was the 30th laird, and although he considerably altered it, Bemersyde remained museum-like, dominated by his father’s First World War mementoes, including the flag on his staff car. Dawyck painted in the room that he thought of primarily as having been his father’s writing room.

He could never get rid of the shadow cast by his father, partly because he spent so much of his life defending the first earl’s reputation against “mudslingers” such as Roy Jenkins alleging that the field marshal had sent men needlessly to their deaths in attacks at Passchendaele and the Somme. In 1991, he denounced as “poisonous trash” the accusation by Denis Winter that Field Marshal Haig’s promotions were due to his friendship with homosexual patrons such as Lords Kitchener and Esher, who also helped falsify war records. He divided his spare time between organizations such as the Earl Haig Fund, the Commonwealth Ex-Services League, the Royal Fine Art Commission for Scotland and the Scottish Arts Council. He sold his father’s papers for £500,000, but even this did not exorcise him.

George Alexander Eugene Douglas “Dawyck” Haig, second Earl Haig, painter, born 15 March 1918; died 10 July 2009.  (All of this is taken from his obituary in The Guardian 14th July 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2009/jul/15/obituary-dawyck-earl-haig)