Obituary: Professor Henry Walton, psychiatrist and author, 88

Henry Walton left his collection to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art
Henry Walton left his collection to the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art
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Professor Henry Walton, a respected psychiatrist and author, has died, bequeathing his extensive art collection to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Born in South Africa on February 15, 1924, he came to Britain after graduating in medicine from the University of Cape Town in 1945.

He settled in Edinburgh in 1962 with his wife, Sula Wolff, a respected child psychologist who he married in 1957 after they met while working at the Maudsley Hospital, in London.

In 1967, he was appointed a professor in the Department of Psychiatry in Edinburgh, following a stint as head of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cape Town and a research fellowship at Columbia University.

Art was a lifelong passion for Prof Walton, who had toyed with the idea of becoming an artist before committing himself to a career in medicine.

Prof Walton once said: “Throughout my life I’ve walked on two legs. One was medicine, and the other is education. Art is part of that educational configuration.”

His eclectic collection, including modern paintings, Oriental pieces and African carvings, was built up using only his own critical eye and his – and Sula’s – academic salaries.

In an interview in 2010, he said: “There was a woman who worked with Christie’s who used to bring classes to homes and show them the collections of private collectors.

“She regularly came to our house and on one occasion said to her class, ‘And all on an academic salary’. Sula kicked my shin surreptitiously, and said under her breath, ‘Two academic salaries’.”

Prof Walton claimed he never purchased a piece of art with an eye on its future resale value – though he did admit to selling his Japanese collection in the 1990s, explaining: “Never give Japanese prints to a museum, they just go into a storeroom.”

A keen philanthropist, he was described as the “driving force” behind Paintings in Hospitals Scotland, now Art in Healthcare, which provides high-quality, contemporary artworks for hospitals and healthcare centres.

During the course of his life he was honoured by academic bodies in seven foreign countries and also received honorary degrees from universities in 
Sweden, Portugal and Argentina.

Highlights from the art collection amassed by him and his late wife were shown at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 2010.

Prof Walton died on July 13, having been diagnosed with renal carcinoma.

Paying tribute, John Leighton, director-general of the National Galleries of Scotland, described him as “an extraordinarily generous friend and supporter” with an “outstanding collection” of art.