Tribute to Moira.
Putney Vale 11th August 2016
Everything in Moira’s life expressed her creativity. She was a talented artist, a perfectionist in all she did. She had a great sense of balance and style, which was always intelligent and understated, seen not only in the impressive body of her art, but in her homes, her studios, in her dress and the way she lived her life.
Moira was born to William and Rose Macgregor in 1931 in Dundee, where she was raised with her two elder sisters, Sheila and Doris in a small house in Glenprosen Drive.
She benefitted from a good Scottish education, starting out at Rockwell Primary School and then on to the Harris Academy where she met life-long friend Audrey Murray. This school had a very good art department run by Mr. Law which may have inspired her decision to go on to Art College (an unusual choice from her background) but Audrey said she always had an artistic nature. In later years, Audrey remembered that Moira would take her around the exhibitions in London and educate her about art, making her look again at a Picasso that she had dismissed.
After school, Moira went on to Dundee College of Art where she studied drawing and painting with Alberto Morocco and was awarded her Diploma of Fine Art and a travelling scholarship in 1954.
She did some early fashion illustrations for Dundee Newspapers but decided to go to teacher training college and taught art in primary school for two years. But she was drawn to working as an artist and came to London looking for studio work as a fashion illustrator. She found herself in Amsterdam working for C&A Brenninkmeijer as a fashion artist for a year.
Back in London, events intervened when there was a print strike. She returned to Dundee and spent the summer, doing door to door political polling. Moira wrote a few notes about this and said:
‘It was lovely summer weather with a nice group of young people doing the same area and we used to meet in the ice cream parlour at the end of the day.’
Then it was back to London after the print strike ended and a new phase in Helen Jardine Artists studio in Covent Garden. Here she met and made life-long friends. Jenny Powell (to become Jenny Manham), Barbara Hulanicki, Susan Quine and Sheila Tizzard.
Jenny remembers that she and Moira became close when Moira had Sam, and Jenny her daughter Sophie at the same time. Jenny and her husband Allan have been very close friends of Moira and John for a very long time, sharing many holidays together.
Jenny recalls that Moira was not only very talented but has also always known exactly what it was she wanted to do. Right to the end of her life she remained driven and was planning, famous for her lists. Precision was everything for Moira, but she was never ostentatious. She has been Jenny’s closest friend for 55 years, and Moira was a generous and thoughtful friend. Her loss is enormous.
Barbara remembers the early days of their friendship when they both worked together in what Barbara describes as a “smelly studio in Covent garden”. Barbara, has told Moira’s family that she now looks back and realises how important that time was as it was when she met all the people who have remained important to her through her life.
Moira and John also met at this time through their mutual friend, Atholl who Moira knew from Dundee College of Art and was sharing a flat with John in Beaufort Street in London. John was struck by Moira’s intelligence and her sense of style. She was always beautifully dressed. They married in 1963 and went to America in 1965 where they stayed with Alan Jones in the Chelsea Hotel. They were soon immersed in the exciting pop art culture of the time, mixing with the up and coming names in the art and design world.
In the early 60s, Moira and John travelled all over Europe in a VW Beetle, once with Alan Jones and his then wife Janet, driving from the UK to Greece, and the second time by themselves to eastern Europe, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. This was a bold thing to do at that time.
Their two children arrived, Sam in 1966 and Kate in 1969, and Moira was taken up with raising her children and family life. They moved house several times, remaining in London.
Wherever she was, Moira had a studio and continued to work both for herself and commercially. She worked in fashion illustration in the 60s and 70s for the national newspapers including The Observer, the Daily Mail, the Evening Standard and the Sunday Times. She created Capable Kate for Honey Magazine; she worked for Woman’s Own and for Glamour Magazine in New York. She was design corresponent for Nova magazine. In the 1980s she did illustration for advertising, packaging and book publishing.
Everything was a creative process for Moira. Her Christmas cards are legendary, usually a print of a drawing. Her handwriting was immaculate. She kept meticulous notes, and everything was well put together with her eye for design. She had a legendary collection of French linen, all immaculately and beautifully preserved and labelled. She produced a series of abstract paintings based on her tablecloths and linen. She also loved jugs and we can see today how the two were combined in an iconic series of paintings of jugs and linen.
From 1983 she had her work exhibited at Royal Academy Summer Exhibitions, at the Royal Watercolour Society and at many other galleries and exhibitions. The 2008 RA Summer Exhibition reproduced a card and mini print of her Enamel Jug II.
In the late 1970s Moira and John bought a large farmhouse in a 12th Century Bastide called Montjoi in France. They went every year for their summer holidays and they watched the village change. Moira did a lot of painting there and made friends with the local families.
She and John enjoyed a long marriage and lived a symbiotic life, in which they supported each other’s creative expression. Creative ideas flowed between them and manifested in their beautiful homes, filled with art and well-designed objects. They made the most of London life, with all the shops and amenities and culture.
She was proud of her Scottish heritage as a Macgregor and all her watercolours, prints and oil paintings were as Moira Macgregor with her distinctive MM logo. The opening night of her 2011 Retrospective exhibition was a very happy gathering of friends and family who were amazed and proud to see her entire body of work brought together.
Moira was good at keeping in touch with people and the pull to Scotland was always strong. She remained in close contact with her friends Audrey and Cammay, her sisters and nieces. Kate and Sam remember the trips to see Moira’s sisters and their cousins. Moira’s Scottish accent would get stronger the closer she got to Dundee. She loved slipping in Scottish sayings whenever she could such as ‘peely-wally’ meaning weak and feeble. She enjoyed listening to Scottish Radio stations and would watch Scottish TV.
She was immensely proud of her two children and their full and creative lives. Moira’s last trip abroad, was with John and Kate to Namibia where Sam had been living as a safari guide. The four of them spent an amazing two weeks travelling all over the country. With Sam as their guide, they visited nature reserves, sat and watched elephants at night, walked through sand dunes in the Namib Desert, and camped in what looked like a Martian landscape in Damaraland. Although it should possibly be mentioned that the tent in question was four star with a four poster bed, linen sheets and an en suite bathroom.
Moira has left at a good time for her and without the descent into old age and infirmity she dreaded. Her biggest fear was to be cared for and dressed in the wrong clothes. Her creative life, her artistic expression, and her mind remained undimmed, and despite failing eyesight, she continued to paint and work with collage.
While her sudden death is a shock for everyone, it was a good end for her and this gives a measure of solace for her family. Her last day was very happy – she had lunch with Kate and John and was planning a trip to Hindon. Sam was away in Africa, but when he learned she had had a stroke he got back in time to see her open her eyes. Her end was very peaceful with her family at her side. She will be hugely missed and never forgotten.