1932 – 2011
Robert Callender was born in Kent, where his father was an engineer and boatbuilder on the Thames. For six decades he worked as an artist in Scotland, studying medical illustration in Edinburgh, and then painting at Edinburgh College of Art from 1954 to 1959, and teaching from 1960 to 1993. He was a much-loved teacher and a cherished presence in the Scottish art community.
Callender inititally became recognised for his large scale paintings; realist landscape images of stony, pebbly beaches. Several years developing this work led the artist and his wife to retreat to a bothy in Sutherland, the connection to the sea proving vital for Callender’s art and providing a sense of intimacy with nature. A significant turning point in his career occurring in 1983, when a there was a tragic boat wreck offshore and five fishermen lost their lives. Stating that his maritime work was a tribute to those who worked at sea, the event prompted a close observation of wreckage and the huge variety of what gets washed up on the shore. Callender became known for his beachcombing, examining collections of found objects and replicating them in wood, cardboard, papier maché, sawdust…
Plastic Beach was his last major work, a reflection of a worsening environment. It formed part of an installation at Contemporary Art Space Osaka (CASO) in 2009