A Life in Pictures by Alasdair Gray - review by James Purdon

James Purdon

Shades of Gray

A Life in Pictures


Canongate 303pp £35

Since the publication of his 1981 novel Lanark, Alasdair Gray’s reputation as a writer has tended to overshadow his extraordinary talents as an illustrator, painter, printmaker, muralist and typographer. Bringing together images from the full span of his career, family snapshots, formative influences and work by friends and collaborators, this superb book should at last correct the imbalance. A running commentary by Gray himself provides an invaluable account of his early life and schooling, his student days at the Glasgow School of Art, and his later successes and setbacks. Gray once told a biographer that the story of his life was ‘all in Lanark’. Not any more: the missing half can now be found in here.

There is a characteristic Alasdair Gray style: strong outlines, an anatomical sensibility that recalls Gray’s nineteenth-century medical namesake, and an Escher-like penchant, in some paintings, for visual paradox. Rather mischievously, he has in the past described his art as deriving ‘partly from Walt Disney and partly from the

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