She was the Dundee artist who built an international career as a fashion illustrator, editor and painter.
Moira Macgregor was best known for her stylish fashion illustrations in the 1960s and 1970s.
She then focused on creating realistic still lifes with food before ending her career as an abstract painter and printmaker.
Macgregor’s work is featured on a new website created by the BBC in collaboration with the University of Dundee Museum Collections.
Who was Moira Macgregor?
Moira Macgregor was born in Dundee in 1931.
She lived on Glenprosen Drive and attended Rockwell Primary School, then Harris Academy in the 1940s.
In 1949 Macgregor enrolled at Dundee College of Art.
At art school, Macgregor studied drawing and painting with Alberto Morrocco – the Scottish artist famous for his paintings of Scottish landscapes and Venice beach scenes.
Macgregor graduated in 1954 and began a traveling fellowship with fellow design student Kathleen Mowat.
The fellowship took her to Rome and Florence, where Macgregor completed a series of drawings and sketches.
After her trip to Italy, Macgregor returned to Dundee and did some early fashion illustrations for local newspapers.
Then she decided to enter the teacher training college and taught art in elementary school for two years.
But the desire to create never left her and in the 1950s she moved to London to pursue her art career.
She was hired by the clothing company C&A in 1958 and moved to Amsterdam to work as a fashion artist.
Matthew Jarron, Museum Curator at the University of Dundee, notes that Macgregor got the job at C&A at a good time for the fashion industry.
He said: “By the time Macgregor entered the company, the government had relaxed its post-war control over consumer goods.
“Salaries went up and so did the demand for stylish but affordable clothing.”
A new phase in Macgregor’s career began in the early 1960s when she returned to London and was employed at the Helen Jardine Artists Studio in Covent Garden.
She met Polish designer Barbara Hulanicki in the studio, and it was a meeting that would define Macgregor’s career.
In 1963 Hulanicki founded the London fashion company Biba.
Initially, Biba was a mail order fashion business and its outfits were inexpensive and open to the public.
Macgregor was asked to illustrate designs for Biba’s mail order catalogues.
With the help of Macgregor’s designs, Biba became known as the place to shop in London.
While working at Biba, Macgregor also met her husband, graphic designer John McConnell.
McConnell designed the famous Biba logo.
In 1965 Macgregor created the feature “Capable Kate” for Honey, the fashion magazine for teenagers.
Mr Jarron adds: “Kate was confident, frugal and occasionally a little cheeky.
“She was the ideal stylish friend, telling her readers how she mixed and matched her old clothes or sewed them from scratch to fit the latest trends.
“Macgregor was very interested in promoting sustainable fashion and her use of recycling and upcycling now seems ahead of her time.”
In the 1960s and 1970s Macgregor continued to work for magazines as an illustrator, editor and design correspondent.
This included working with Nova magazine in London and Glamor magazine in New York.
But she soon decided to venture into new styles.
Macgregor left fashion in the 1980s and 1990s.
She is particularly well known for her realistic illustrations of fruits.
Mr Jarron noted that Macgregor’s fruit illustrations were the result of a rigorous and lengthy study process.
He added, “Sometimes she would add the sticky labels of each piece of fruit next to her sketch to help remember the exact variety.”
Macgregor was proud of her Scottish heritage.
All of her watercolours, prints and oil paintings have been signed as Moira Macgregor with her distinctive MM logo.
She continued to paint fruit until the end of her career, experimenting with different styles and gradually simplifying her compositions.
A note on the back of one of her sketchbooks reads, “Paint the essence, avoid the tyranny of description.”
This culminated in 1992 with a series of abstract screenprints depicting various shapes in bold blocks of color.
In the 2000s she abandoned this use of color and produced a series of paintings that focused on a single object.
These were shown in a solo exhibition in 2011.
Macgregor’s work is currently featured on a new BBC website, created in collaboration with the University of Dundee Museum Collections.
Her work was donated to the university when she died in 2016.
The university museums received a collection of more than 500 drawings, paintings, prints and proofs from Macgregor’s family, who had donated the work at their request.
Mr Jarron added: “All the artwork [on the site] come from this remarkable collection that spans Moira’s entire career and showcases the breadth of her artistic abilities as an illustrator, painter and graphic designer.
“This extraordinary collection reveals Macgregor’s creative process and demonstrates the amazing range and capability of an extraordinary talent.”
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[The Dundee artist who set the fashion trends of the 60s]