Drawings illustrate fashion of a bygone era

7 December 2010

Drawings which give an insight into what was fashionable in the city during the late 1930s and early 1940s go on show this weekend [Saturday 11 December] at Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill.   

The exhibition features drawings by James Hayden Fettes, which were donated to the Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums by his son Laurence Hayden Fettes in 2007.

James Hayden Fettes was born in Linlithgow in 1891. Known as Hayden to his family he was determined to become an artist although his father, a master grocer and whisky blender, wanted him to follow in his footsteps.

Although his father disapproved of his choice of profession and refused to fund his training Fettes worked during the day to support himself and attended night classes at a school of art in Edinburgh in order to attain the necessary skills he needed.

Once qualified Fettes joined the Edinburgh based printing company McLagan & Cumming. He then set up his own design business in the city however it did not thrive, so after hearing there was plenty of work in Aberdeen he decided to move north in the late 1920s.

He advertised himself as freelance commercial fashion artist and very quickly found his work high sought after. He produced fashion illustrations for many Aberdeen stores including Watt & Grant, Esslemont & Macintosh and Falconers.

Aberdeen Art Gallery curator Victoria Ward said: "These wonderful drawings now form an important part of Aberdeen's costume collection, giving an insight into what was fashionable in the city during the late 1930s and early 1940s.

"They are also significant because they show that even during the austere years of World War II and the introduction of clothes rationing in 1941, the fashion industry still managed to continue. In addition they demonstrate that although photography was widely used department stores still favoured a more traditional approach to illustrating their collections".

After the war there was still a demand for this type of illustration but eventually photography did take over. Fettes' passion for art never left him and he continued to draw and paint for much of his life.

The exhibition will run until Saturday 19 March 2011.