FOR the first time, an exhibition of work by illustrator, editor and painter Moira Macgregor is on display in Dundee, the city where she was born in 1931.

An artist who never stopped creating throughout her entire life, Macgregor worked for the likes of C&A and Biba, The Observer newspaper, magazines such as Woman's Own, Nova and Glamour, and various advertising agencies and publishers.

In 1954 she graduated from Dundee College of Art – now Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and part of the University of Dundee, which presents the exhibition. Macgregor studied under Alberto Morrocco, an artist best known for his landscapes of Scotland and Venice, and acclaimed as the best Scottish portrait painter of his time.

Following Macgregor's death in 2016, her family donated a significant collection of her work to the university, in accordance with her wishes.

The National:

A silk screen print by Macgregor from 1992, showing cherries in a bowl, is part of the collection

"It was an incredibly generous donation with over 400 individual pieces," says art historian Liz Louis, curator of Moira Macgregor: A Life In Style.

Louis is currently cataloguing each of the donated works for the University of Dundee Museum Service, and says the collection will function not only as a record of Macgregor's work, but also as a resource for current and future generations of students.

"Students can come along and have a look at her work process, how she went about from looking at something to making it into the final work," says Louis. "In terms of graphic design, and graphic illustration, Moira was working way before the time of Photoshop and InDesign and in a lot of her work, you can see how she built up the page layout and design as well. That's a really valuable element of the donation."

Upon graduation in 1954, Macgregor was awarded a travel bursary which allowed her to go on a life-changing trip to see the museums and art galleries of Italy. Later, she would live in the Netherlands where worked briefly with C&A before moving to London where she met Barbara Hulanicki, the founder of the Biba.

In recognition of how that bursary to Italy opened up the world to Macgregor, her family are now offering a similar bursary for Duncan of Jordanstone students, in tribute to her memory.

Louis says a fellow student of Macgregor's back in her undergraduate days in the 1950s recalls how working in the fashion industry was an ambition for the young artist.

Working on advertising illustrations for Biba, the fashion house which epitomised 1960s/1970s glamour and sophistication, her dreams were realised.

A Life In Style includes her work for a Biba mail order catalogue from 1969. Whereas most catalogues at the time were ungainly, bulky things, Biba's were as beautiful and elegant as their garments, and featured photographs by the likes of Sarah Moon and Helmut Newton.

"Many of these are very stylised scenes which were all about creating the desire to have this kind of Biba lifestyle for yourself," says Louis. "Moira's illustration has a much more pragmatic purpose of actually showing what the clothes look like when you're standing straight, what the pattern is.

“It's a really interesting bridge between photography and illustration, two forms which are not always as easily reconcilled. Here they actually complement each other."

From advertising images to her later figurative drawings and paintings, a constant of Macgregor's work is her meticulous draftsmanship. It's a mark of her time with the formidable Morrocco, an artist in turn influenced by Scottish modernist greats James Cowie and Robert Sivell, the latter of whom tutored Morrocco at Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen from the age of just 14.

"They were all very interested in draftsmanship and placed great value on being able to draw really well," says Louis. "You can see that in Moira's work too, and that was probably why she went on to do a lot of graphic design work and illustration."

In the 1980s and early 1990s, Macgregor focussed on realistic illustrations for advertising, publishing and packaging. She wasn't only a commercial artist however, and from 1983 her works featured regularly at the Royal Academy summer exhibitions.

"Later she starts creating art more for art's sake rather," says Louis, referring to a series of silk screen prints now part of the university's collection. Dated from around 1992 onwards, they are simple still lifes featuring the likes of a couple of pears on a plate or cherries in a bowl.

"Having come from this photorealistic style, she starts simplifying the subject of these still lives to their essential shapes and colours,” says Louis. “By 2000, we're down to a single mug on a very simplified table cloth. A lot of them are so flat and so stylised that they look like abstract geometric compositions.”

Louis adds: “That inference completes the circle because the very earliest work we have in this collection by Moira is a still life from 1954. The exhibition has a really nice symmetry to it."

Until September 22, Tower Foyer Gallery, Tower Building, University of Dundee, Monday to Friday 9.30am to 7pm, Saturday 1pm to 5pm, free. Tel: 01382 384310.