Mary Steele was born in Blantyre on 27th March 1902. She lived with her parents at their home near Victoria Street and when she was just 12, she won a scholarship to attend Hamilton Academy. Leaving behind Auchinraith Primary School, she attended the Academy between the years of 1914 and 1920. She was a gifted pupil, immersing herself especially in art, drawing and colour (perhaps on reflection to escape the grey, dirty world Blantyre was back in those coal mining era days). Her talent caught the eye of her art teacher, who had a word with her parents and persuaded them to let Mary attend Glasgow School of Art (GSA). Mary Steele studied at the GSA from 1920 until 1925, when after a post-diploma year and teacher training, Mary Steel became an art teacher.
In 1927 she married the landscape and figure painter William Armour (1903–1979), settling in Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow city.
By then Mary Armour was an accomplished artist, painting still life, landscapes and portraits in oils and watercolour. Mary Armour was to exhibit regularly at the Royal Academy; the Royal Scottish Academy (winning the Guthrie Prize in 1937); the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour, the Scottish Society of Artists and the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts. In 1941 she was elected an associate of the Royal Scottish Watercolour Society, becoming a full member in 1956, and became a Royal Scottish Academician in 1958. Armour
taught still life painting at Glasgow School of Art from 1951 to 1962 when she retired from teaching and returned to painting full-time.
In 1972 she was awarded the Cargill Prize at the RGIFA (Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts) becoming a full member of the RGIFA in 1977. In 1982 she was awarded an honorary LLD from the University of Glasgow. Armour was also elected Honorary President of the Glasgow School of Art and of the RGIFA, which awards the annual ‘Armour Award’ for a work of distinction by a young artist. Mary Nicol Neill Armour died on 5 July 2000, aged 98.
Her painting sell for many thousands of pounds and since her death, her stock has been rising in value. Her work is displayed at many Scottish museums, including City of Edinburgh Collection, Aberdeen Art Gallery and of course nearer her home town, at David Livingstone Centre too. A Mary Armour early painting is displayed in the Centre which was gifted there to commemorate the opening of the centre in 1929. I have attached some photos of her other famous works.
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