Torrie IMG_7387 960 x 610.jpg

Photo of an artwork from The Torrie Collection
'Abduction of a Sabine' from The Torrie Collection
Displayed and labelled in a new way at the centre of the latest Rediscover exhibition

There’s a great emphasis on looking forward at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA), but a new project is reminding us to look at inspiration from years gone by.

The Art Collections Project is a new venture promoting some of the rich collections the university owns. The Torrie Collection, gifted to the University of Edinburgh in 1836, is one of those collections and it can be credited for inspiring people and projects of a fantastic range.

One person who was particularly inspired was Emily Moore, who in fact crossed the Atlantic in order to make use of it. Emily did her undergraduate degree in European Studies - a mixture of languages, literature history and history of art - in Connecticut, USA. The programme cemented her love for the arts, and in particular, Renaissance drawings.

Following her first degree, Emily began looking outwards. One person whose work she was familiar with was Genevieve Warwick, Director of Research for History of Art and Director of Postgraduate Studies at ECA who is a leading scholar of Renaissance and Early Modern Art and has helped disseminate the Torrie Collection to other students and scholars.

Padre Sebastiano Resta, an Italian art scholar whom Genevieve has written a book on, was one particular shared passion. Emily sent her proposal for a PhD on Resta and before she knew it she was in Auld Reekie, ready to embark on a new adventure.  

“Edinburgh is a perfect city to study in. The history, the research faculties. Oh - and the art! I love the walkability here and the people, laid back but still cosmopolitan enough to keep you enthused.”

Taking full advantage of the city’s rich museum culture, Emily has been working in the curatorial department of the National Gallery of Scotland.

“The chief curator is Aidan Weston Lewis, whose interest is Italian drawings, so that worked out extremely well! He’s been amazing. When I’m not working, he’ll pull out drawings from the collection and we just sit and look and talk about them, which is incredible.”

So how does a typical day look for a PHD student at ECA? Evolution House has an office specifically for them which has a serene sense of calm and looks right over the city. Emily is in the process of beginning her second chapter which “is a bit intimidating!”.

She explains that once you’re in the midst of writing it comes more easily but wrapping your head around the fact you’re going to write 80 pages can be quite mind boggling!

Emily’s technique is to just get writing.

“I force myself to start. I’ll put it off thinking, ‘I need to keep researching, I don’t know every answer yet!’ But really it’s best to just start writing. You continue researching as you write anyway so it helps at a certain point to just get started, even if it’s not what you like or if you’ll throw it away, just to get thoughts on paper.”

Eighteen months in, what are Emily’s thoughts on studying here as a PHD student?

“Edinburgh College of Art has been wonderful, so supportive. Everybody in the faculty is so successful in their fields. Genevieve especially has been amazing, keeping me updated on things that are coming up and pushing me to do things outside my area. Oh and the other students have been great. I can only say good things!’

Are you interested in studying History of Art at Edinburgh College of Art?

We offer a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes.

The Torrie Collection exhibition will be on show in the Georgian Gallery, Talbot Rice Gallery, from 11th February to 6th May 2017. There will be an accompanying programme of student-led lectures and events. 

Eva Cameron Coutts will be writing for the ECA web team for the remainder of the academic year. She is currently in her fourth year at Edinburgh Napier University studying Journalism.