Mario Finlayson was born in Gibraltar on 15th March 1927. He died aged 92 on 5th January 2020.
From a very early age Mario was one of the most renowned artists of his time in Gibraltar. He had made a name for himself as an artist even before he was granted a scholarship to study art in the United Kingdom at the Slade School of Fine Arts, University College London, which he attended from 1966–1967.
He furthered his studies in 1967–1968 by obtaining an Art teacher’s Certificate at the College of Art in Bristol. In 1971-1972 he studied at Bishop Lonsdale College of Education in Derby and obtained further qualifications.
In 1979-1980 he was granted a sabbatical year to study at Goldsmiths College, University of London, where he obtained an Art teacher’s Specialist Diploma. This study period coincided with his daughter Paulette’s university training in dance, at the same institution, with both spending time together whenever possible, and inspiring each other in the arts.
Following this, he returned to Gibraltar to become Head of Art at the Girl’s Grammar School, later to become Head of the Art Department at the Girl’s Comprehensive School.
Mario was actively involved as a Committee Member of the Calpe Artists’ Society; Chairman of the Art Group Four; President of The Gibraltar Art Society and a Committee Member of the Gibraltar Fine Arts Association. He also served as a member of the Arts Advisory Council and a member of the John Mackintosh Hall Board of Management. Mario was also in charge of the Gibraltar Arts Centre in Prince Edward’s Road for over 30 years, overseeing and involved in its running and maintenance.
The artist exhibited his works extensively over the years, locally as well as in Spain, England ( London), and Germany. His works received many awards and prizes, including 1st Prize at the 2013 Spring Art Competition. He was producing works well into his 80s, evidenced by his Self Portrait created in 2015.
In 1987 he was awarded a BEM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. In 2007, the Senior Heritage Award was bestowed upon Mario by the Gibraltar Heritage Trust.
GCS produced a retrospective exhibition dedicated to the life and works of Mario in January 2015. At the exhibition launch the Chief Minister, the Hon Fabian Picardo QC MP announced that the National Gallery, due to be opened at the City Hall on 2nd June 2015, would be named in Mario’s honour. Mr Picardo explained that Mario’s work had spanned many artistic generations, and he had inspired and taught many artists, so this honour was a fitting tribute. Mario had campaigned for the opening of a National Art Gallery in Gibraltar for many years, especially as part of The Calpe Artists’ Society, which was formed in 1954. The Gallery was to have rooms dedicated to the four deceased Gibraltarian artists considered the most renowned and prolific: Gustavo Bacarisas, Jacobo Azagury, Leni Mifsud and Rudesindo Mannia.
Mario’s painting style is iconic, recognisable in his rooftop scenes of Gibraltar, his portraits and self-portraits, and the studies of his studios.
At the time of opening the Gibraltar National Art Gallery in 2015 Mario was the only living artist represented in the space. He is considered the doyen of Gibraltar’s fine arts, and his works befittingly hang alongside the other Gibraltarian artistic greats.