Judy Ann MacMillan is one of Jamaica’s foremost academic painters. Born in Kingston but trained in Scotland she brings to her work a unique synthesis of technical ability and subjective intimacy that only a Caribbean artist can achieve.
Returning from her studies in Europe, in the early 1970s Judy MacMillan began to establish a name for herself amongst collectors and patrons alike as she undertook a series of portrait commissions. Her keen sense of observation, classical rendering and her sense of pathos for her sitters brought her public acclaim and success. But Macmillan showed herself to be more than just a society painter, in the tradition of itinerants such as the British painter Augustus John who visited Jamaica in the late 1930s, she moved towards portraiture with a social conscience. Choosing subjects such as Jamaica’s youth as in New Breed 1975, she raised questions and awareness about modern Jamaican society. These works quickly found their way into the National Collection.
Throughout the 1980s Macmillan veered towards landscape painting creating large moody panoramas that diligently and sometimes sentimentally documented rural scenes from the Jamaican countryside. Dividing her time between Kingston and her country home she increasing displayed her interest in the simpler timeless aspects of Jamaican life. Again this genre was greeted with success and these works were avidly sought for banks and corporate collections.
MacMillan’s style is romantic, she paints with a quixotic manner that enables her to relate to Jamaica’s changing vista’s and temperaments. She revels in these different moods, capturing the breeze as it moves across the landscape, the shifting forms of clouds, the vagaries of light from dawn till dusk. All become sources of inspiration for her work. Similarly with her sitters she is able to employ colour, light and shadow to characterize the complexities of the Jamaican persona.
More recently, MacMillan has brought her oeuvre together in a publication of her work entitled My Jamaica that displays her talents. It also demonstrates her commitment to the island in a way that is sentimental and at times nostalgic.