Born in Edinburgh, Martin Baillie studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art. A lifelong socialist and a conscientious objector, he was exempted from service in the Second World War but decided to enlist because of his detestation of Hitler's regime. After the war, he lectured first in Leeds, and then in 1954 moved to Glasgow to become a tutor in art history in the Department of Extra-Mural Studies (as it then was) at the University of Glasgow. For many years he was also art critic of the Glasgow Herald. He exhibited widely as a painter and his work is found in public and private collections. When he retired as senior lecturer in art history in 1985, he continued to teach part-time, and even after his final retirement in 2008 went on lecturing privately.