Graduates of Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) have been making their mark on the global arts scene since the early twentieth century, though our roots go back even further, with many success stories shaped in the institutions from which we emerged.

Before the foundation of ECA in 1906, the Trustees Academy produced such artists as Alexander Nasmyth, David Wilkie and William Allan.

The painter Dorothy Johnstone was the first outstanding artist to be trained wholly in the institution known as Edinburgh College of Art, and soon a group of alumni known as The Edinburgh School were gaining international attention, Anne Redpath and William Gillies among them.

In the College’s early years, it was common for graduates to work with staff and students on major commissions, such as the National War Memorial (involving Phyllis Bone, Alexander Carrick, Hazel Armour and Pilkington Jackson), and the 1938 Empire Exhibition in Glasgow (to which Basil Spence, Robert Westwater, Donald Moodie, and John Maxwell all contributed).

One of the first students to graduate with our Fine Art degree was Elizabeth Blackadder, who went on to become the first woman elected to both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy. Uniquely interdisciplinary in its field, the degree combines art practice and art history and, over the years, has produced a number of notable alumni, including John Leighton, Director General of the National Galleries of Scotland.

As we have grown and diversified, so too has our list of alumni, creating a talented international community working across many sectors and industries. From the painter and musician Alan Davie, to artist and arts promoter Richard Demarco, and writer and illustrator Aileen Paterson, our graduates often combine a range of talents and skills. 

The merger between the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh College of Art has introduced graduates from Music and History of Art to our story. Among them are the composers Kenneth Leighton, James MacMillan, Rebecca Saunders, Max Richter and Vicky Arlidge, and the founder of Streetwise Opera Matt Peacock. Gallerist Jay Jopling studied History of Art, as did Museum Director Jérémie McGowan, Islamic Art expert Finbarr Barry Flood, and actor Rachael Stirling.

    Photo of David Michie
    Image courtesy of John McGregor
    David Michie pictured with work by himself and his mother, Anne Redpath
    Photo of a filmmaker shooting a film
    Image courtesy of Benjamin Wiacek
    Sara Ishaq filming her Oscar-nominated documentary

    Recent years have seen us witness the success of British Fashion Awards winner, Holly Fulton, Oscar nominees Sara Ishaq and Nuria González Blanco, BAFTA winning animator Will Anderson, and the internationally-acclaimed artists Katie Paterson, Takahiro Iwasaki and Rachel Maclean.

    From Penelope Beaton to John Bellany, many of our graduates have come back to teach, tutor and mentor at ECA, and there are countless stories of personal friendships and professional collaborations that have been sustained long after graduation (sometimes both, as in the case of architects Rab and Denise Bennetts).

    There is also a long history of families studying here, including painter David Michie following in the footsteps of his mother, Anne Redpath, and seven members of Jewellery and Fashion alumnus Sheila Fleet’s family attending ECA over two generations.

    With the appointment of an Alumni Officer in 2016, and the launch of an ECA Alumni Programme, there are more opportunities than ever to stay connected, and for our students of yesteryear to share stories, experiences and advice with the talent of the future.