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New exhibition on Academy Award winner Norman McLaren

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Norman McLaren portrait
Norman McLaren - the Oscar®-winning filmmaker from Stirling – is the subject of a new exhibition at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum from April 11. “A Dream of Stirling: Norman McLaren’s Scottish Dawn” uses material from the University of Stirling’s extensive Norman McLaren Archive along with items donated by the McLaren family.

A new exhibition on the early life of Norman McLaren – the Oscar®-winning filmmaker from Stirling – launches at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum on April 11.

“A Dream of Stirling: Norman McLaren’s Scottish Dawn” uses material from the University of Stirling’s extensive Norman McLaren Archive along with items donated by the McLaren family.

The display aims to provide an insight into McLaren’s childhood and looks at the influence of his Scottish upbringing on his filmmaking career.

The free exhibition, running until 22 June, is being delivered as part of McLaren 2014 - a nationwide programme celebrating the centenary of the birth of this pioneering Scottish artist, filmmaker and musician.

Workshops, performances, film screenings and other events – many free - will take place at the Smith Art Gallery, the University’s macrobert arts centre and other venues across Scotland and the rest of the UK as part of the wider celebration. See for details.

Norman McLaren is best known for his work for the National Film Board of Canada - winning an Academy Award® in 1952 for his short film “Neighbours”. Other awards included a BAFTA for Best Animated Film for “Pas de Deux” in 1969 and best short film at the Cannes Film Festival for “Blinkity Blank” in 1955.

Elspeth King from the Stirling Smith said: “McLaren was born in the house directly opposite the Stirling Smith 100 years ago. Over the years, McLaren aficionados have come seeking information, questioning why Stirling does not celebrate the work of such a great man in the place of his birth. This exhibition gives the Smith the opportunity to do that, in an entirely appropriate manner, for the first time.”

Karl Magee, the University Archivist – who curated the new exhibition - said: “We’re really excited to have the opportunity to display material from the Norman McLaren Archive in the Stirling Smith which is literally right across the road from where he grew up.

“While researching the exhibition we found that Norman McLaren had exhibited paintings in the Smith in the 1930s and our current display will include a number of artworks that he produced at that time. These works have been specially conserved and mounted for the exhibition and will be displayed alongside photographs, letters and memorabilia from the archive.”

Mr Magee will talk about the exhibition and McLaren’s life during a free talk at the Smith Art Gallery on 15 April. To reserve a place call 01786 471917 or email:

Norman McLaren was born at 21 Albert Place, Stirling, on 11 April 1914. A pupil of Stirling High School, his artistic talent was recognised at an early age. In the 1930s, while a student at the Glasgow School of Art, his work was exhibited in the Stirling Smith as part of the Stirling Fine Art Society shows. Norman’s father William was an active member of the society and the exhibition catalogues include advertisements for his decorating business in Maxwell Place.

McLaren’s enthusiasm for film grew as a member of the student Kinecraft Society. After gaining recognition at the Scottish Amateur Film Festival, McLaren was employed by the General Post Office Film Unit where his discipline as a filmmaker was forged. After a brief period living in New York, at the dawn of World War II, McLaren emigrated to Canada where he was invited to found the Animation Department of the burgeoning National Film Board of Canada, itself celebrating 75 years in 2014. His philosophy of animation as an art of personal expression was to have an enormous influence on animation universally.

He died on 26 January, 1987, aged 72.

“A Dream of Stirling” will include examples of Norman McLaren’s artwork from the 1920s and 1930s. Much of this material has not been publicly displayed for over 70 years and has been specially conserved, mounted and framed for the exhibition.

In a 1943 letter to his parents McLaren wrote: “I often dream about being at Albert Place.” The exhibition will present a photographic record of his family life in Stirling and will also feature a colour home movie shot by McLaren of the family in their garden. This film was one of Norman’s treasured memories of Stirling. In a letter written in 1941 he described viewing the film in his New York apartment, the experience being so vivid that “it was just like being back at home".

Neighbours by Norman McLaren, National Film Board of Canada

Ken Hay, CEO for the Centre for Moving Image, producers of McLaren 2014, said: “One of the objectives of the McLaren 2014 programme is to bring Norman McLaren back home to Scotland. So what better way to kick off the whole McLaren 2014 programme than this exhibition at the Smith, immediately opposite his childhood home. The CMI is delighted that the University of Stirling and the Smith have come together to stage this key element of the overall programme.”

Iain Gardner, Artistic Director at McLaren 2014, said: “I’m delighted that the Smith Museum is hosting our first major exhibition celebrating Norman McLaren’s formative years in Scotland. This exhibition will provide a unique insight into the world in which Norman grew up – a world similar but distant to today’s. It will be fascinating to discover McLaren’s childhood in the midst of the streets he played on and I personally can’t wait to see the items on display.”

Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum is in Dumbarton Road, Stirling. The venue is open from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesdays to Saturdays and from 2 pm. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. There is free car parking for around 30 cars outside the gallery. To find out more visit or call the gallery on 01786 471917.


McLaren 2014 logoM‌cLaren 2014 is a programme celebrating the centenary of pioneering Scottish artist, filmmaker and musician, Norman McLaren. This programme of events explores McLaren’s life and work with special exhibitions, screenings, workshops and performances in Stirling, Glasgow, Edinburgh and in the rest of the UK, from April to August 2014.

Events in Scotland will narrate his formative years in Scotland, following his journey from his birthplace in Stirling, to his student years in Glasgow and his world celebrity as recognised at the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

McLaren 2014 is an official Culture 2014 event and part of the Year of Homecoming Scotland 2014 celebrations.  The McLaren 2014 Programme has been produced by the Centre for the Moving Image in partnership with the National Film Board of Canada. The McLaren Centenary Film Tour is supported by the BFI, which is awarding funds from the National Lottery, and Film Hub Scotland (which is part of the UK-wide BFI Film Audience Network). 

McLaren 2014

Norman McLaren in garden

Norman McLaren in his garden. The University of Stirling has an extensive McLaren archive. 


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