When a devastating illness brought Guy Kinder to the brink of death it was the unwitting catalyst for a return to his roots and a love of portraiture.
After an epic battle – ten days in a coma, three months in hospital and the daunting challenge of learning to walk and talk again – he realised that making videos would now be too arduous a task and so he turned to his passion for painting portraits. The result is a legacy of astoundingly accurate and insightful images of sitters from broadcaster and journalist Jim Naughtie to lawyer and charity fundraiser Olivia Giles OBE, former Aberdeen University chancellor Lord Wilson of Tillyorn and crime writer Ian Rankin OBE DL.
As one delighted subject enthused: “I honestly have no idea how you manage to capture so much in two dimensions.”
The son of salesman Lionel Kinder and his wife Rosmarie, a jewellery designer, Guy Kinder was born in Hertfordshire and educated initially at primary school in Neasden before moving to Craigflower Preparatory School in Fife and then Strathallan in Perthshire. There, aged 15, he won the whole school art prize for a painting depicting Caravaggio’s The Supper at Emmaus. The work hung for many years in the school entrance hall and later in the home of his art teacher Torquil J Macleod who had encouraged the youngster’s artistic talents, entrusting him with the keys to the art department where he spent the majority of his spare time.
Kinder went on to Dundee’s Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design where he gained a BA in drawing and painting under tutors including Alberto Morrocco and David McClure. After graduating, he became a graphics supervisor for Clydesdale Community Projects in 1983, setting up and running a graphics studio and darkroom in New Lanark for young people on the Government’s Youth Trainee Scheme.
He spent three-and-a-half years there where the studio created the majority of the New Lanark Visitor Centre’s early exhibition displays and Kinder photographed events and celebrity visits. He also ran adult evening classes in drawing and painting, produced illustrations for the Scottish Wildlife Trust and publisher Blackie Books and took on his first major commission, a request by the then Scottish Secretary George Younger to paint his father the 3rd Viscount Younger of Leckie.
Then in the summer of 1986 he bought the Wynd Gallery in Lanark, an art supply and picture framing business. He had had no intention of running such a business but, when the opportunity presented itself, he grasped it and built up a loyal customer base of clients who appreciated his exceptional service, advice and artist’s understanding of their needs. He sold the business in 2001 by which time he had married his wife Ros and become father to their daughter April. Their son Niles was born in 2003.
Choosing a new path, he moved into film-making and studied videography at Glasgow College of Building and Printing between 2001 and 2003. Having moved with his family to Edinburgh, he was soon winning Institute of Videography awards for his documentaries, notably on Glasgow’s Britannia Panopticon, the world’s oldest surviving music hall.
But in 2008 he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and became gravely ill after developing sepsis that same year. Following an extraordinary recovery, he resumed his painting career, converted his garage into an art studio and focused on portraiture although over the years his works had embraced many media. He had long experimented with creating multi-media works and utilised chalk pastel, scratchboard, acrylics, watercolour and graphite pencil among others. Inspired by the world around him, and in particular by the artist Sir Henry Raeburn, he captured everything from landscapes to people and still life.
It was his gift for understanding people that made him stand out as a portrait artist and he revelled in bringing out the unique aspects of his subject’s character through the tiniest details in facial expression and body language. Writer Alexander McCall Smith, who commissioned Kinder to paint Ian Rankin and gifted the portrait to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, considered every work “a glowing gem”.
His paintings are held in a number of private and public collections, including the National Galleries of Scotland and the Universities of Aberdeen, Stirling and the West of Scotland.
“There is no doubt that his painting gave him a real focus in the midst of many challenges,” said his friend, the former director of National Museums of Scotland, Dr Gordon Rintoul CBE.
“His paintings of a number of important contemporary Scottish figures are a real legacy which he leaves behind. Whether that of the novelist Ian Rankin, which is one of the most popular in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, or that of Lord Wilson of Tillyorn, they betrayed his deep interest in people and what made them tick.”
Despite knowing that his illness would shorten his life, and enduring the constant treatments to control the lymphoma through chemotherapy and other procedures, he remained determined, uncomplaining and strong-willed, resolving to live as normal a life as possible.
“It always amazed me that despite this knowledge, he pressed on with calmness and fortitude,” said Dr Rintoul.
A big part of his appreciation of living was the pleasure he derived from music: he’d been given his first record player at the age of five, along with the Beatle’s latest EP Million Sellers. That sparked a love of vinyl, resulting in an extensive, alphabetically-organised record collection in his Edinburgh studio, although while painting he preferred to listen to downloaded music. He also enjoyed attending pop and classical concerts with his family on whom he was intently focused.
He is survived by his wife Ros and children April and Niles, both of whom have inherited his interest in art and music, with his daughter, who also takes portrait commissions, recently being awarded a BA in music.
If you would like to submit an obituary, or have a suggestion for a subject, contact [email protected]
A message from the Editor
Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.
If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.