Patrick Downie's Old Greenock

Patrick Downie was born in Greenock in 1854 and spent his early life there. Downie’s background was an impoverished one and economic necessity meant that had to initially work in a variety of jobs. The family is first recorded as living at Hunter's Land, 30 Sugarhouse Lane, Greenock in the 1861 census and by 1881 he is recorded as living at 16 Holmscroft Street, Greenock with his mother, his profession listed as a 'Grocer's Asst. & Artillery Letter Carrier.' He later lived at 37 Roxburgh Street, Greenock before moving to Paisley

Downie's youth in Greenock was important in providing him with a rich source of images throughout his life. The streets of Greenock and the attendant activity of the waterfront were favourite subjects and he painted them in oils and watercolours. His works were also published as book illustrations and as lithograph prints. Downie once claimed "I could almost rebuild Old Greenock from my sketch-book".

In 1885 he married first Margaret Cochran, daughter of a draper, Robert Cochran, who had been Provost of Paisley. Downie's first wife died in 1888 and Downie then married Margaret's sister Helen, who was also an artist, specialising in flower paintings. 

Although he spent a brief period studying in Paris, he remained largely self-taught. He started to show his work around 1885 and was showing his paintings in the major London galleries from the late 1880s.

Although best remembered for his west coast and Greenock scenes he painted in several locations on the east coast of Scotland including St. Andrews and Dunbar. Patrick Downie continued to paint into old age and was still painting pictures of Greenock harbours in his eighties. His work, especially his street scenes of Greenock, continues to appeal to a wide audience and he remains the most popular of the various artists born in Greenock in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

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You can see more works including drawings and paintings by Patrick Downie by looking at our Collections Online website. Click on the link on the left.