George Bain 1881 - 1968

George Bain is still usually referred to as the father of modern Celtic design. Born in Scrabster (Caithness), his family moved to Edinburgh, where he trained as an artist. He served in Macedonia during the First World War and returned to take up the position of Principal Teacher of Art at Kirkcaldy High School, Fife, remaining in this post until his retirement in 1946.

Bain devoted much of his life to the study of the techniques used by the ancients to produce their intricate mathematical designs. These designs appear on the Pictish stones of eastern Scotland, the highly sophisticated metalwork and jewellery from Britain and Ireland, and the early illuminated manuscripts which include the Books of Durrow, Kells and Lindisfarne. He published the definitive book Celtic Art: The Methods of Construction in 1951, which did much to revive interest in the subject. He is also noted for his paintings of landscapes in Scotland, Greece and the Balkans.

Bain’s achievement in working out the techniques used by the ancient Celtic artists was significant in creating a renaissance of interest in this type of art-work. His role as a teacher of the framework within which this art-form could be further developed and constructed anew was of great importance. Today, with the current resurgence of interest in Celtic and Pictish Art, it is an excellent time for us to appreciate and remember the great work that this outstanding artist and scholar undertook. 





The George Bain Collection - a Recognised Collection of National Significance for Scotland

The George Bain Collection is a unique and comprehensive record of Bain’s life, art and educational work.  As such, it has been awarded the status of a Recognised Collection of National Significance for Scotland – a status awarded by Museums Galleries Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, and shared with only forty-three other prestigious collections around Scotland.

The George Bain Collection has been acquired through donations and purchases since the late 1990s.  The initial collection of original Celtic artwork by George Bain was donated to Groam House Museum by members of the Bain family in 1998.  Further substantial donations were given by the family in 1999 and 2005, along with smaller donations from other individuals.  In 2012 Groam House Museum was awarded a Collecting Cultures grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which allowed the purchase of further art work by Bain and and his contemporaries in the Celtic Art Revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – many of the acquisitions can be seen in this booklet.

The collection largely comprises works of art on paper - primarily Bain’s Celtic teaching aids and designs for commissions - but also includes metal printing plates, etchings, lino blocks and prints from the blocks, textiles, embroidered tea cloths, a hand-knotted carpet, manufactured rugs, carved and decorated woodwork and sculptures, decorated ceramics, jewellery and leatherwork together with his supporting archive of printing proofs, correspondence and photographs. The Groam House Museum collection is unique - no other UK museum (national or regional) has invested in the work of George Bain.

We aim to share the George Bain Collections as widely as possible through exhibitions, outreach activities and lectures.  In so doing, we aim to realise Bain’s vision of Celtic art for all.

Information about Bain Collection research is available here.
a bi-lingual greeting card design by george bain - copyright the george bain estate

Items in the collection which are in storage can be seen by appointment with the museum (click here for contact details).


To celebrate the completion of our Developing the George Bain Collection programme and accompany our 2013 exhibition we commissioned a 24 page commemorative booklet from Inverness design company Velocity.