Caroline McNairn (1955 - 2010) developed a bold figurative style that drew on a variety of sources, from French modernism to Russian icon painting. Her work remained, nonetheless, pre-eminently Scottish. Many of her canvases reflect the atmosphere and setting of Edinburgh, while their bright hues and elements of abstraction recall the early-20th-century Scottish colourists John Duncan Fergusson, Samuel Peploe, Leslie Hunter and Francis Cadell.
From 1972 she studied fine art at Edinburgh University and Edinburgh College of Art. She was one of a group of artists, including Fionna Carlisle, June Redfern and Ian Hughes, who were closely associated with 369, an innovative Edinburgh gallery that opened in 1978.
McNairn's career took off in the 80s and early 90s, a period in which figurative painting flourished as a new generation gained prominence in both Europe and America. She appeared in important one-woman and group shows in London, Hong Kong, Chicago and New York, where her work was praised by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring. She received the greatest, and most surprising, approbation in Russia. In 1989 the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow honoured McNairn by buying one of her paintings, reviving the museum's practice (abandoned after the Russian revolution) of collecting foreign art.