Craigie Aitchison was born in Edinburgh in 1926. After the death of his father in 1941, he left school to be tutored privately. His interest in design and arrangement (he had thought of becoming a fashion designer) dates from this period. He spent three years as a law student but as his interest in the law diminished he took private lessons from Adrian Daintry, the portrait painter and art critic of Punch. In 1952 he entered the Slade School of Fine Art where he encountered the teaching of William Coldstream, with its emphasis on methods of observation and measurement.
In 1955 he visited Italy for the first time where the landscape and the religious art greatly inspired him. He returned to live and paint in Scotland, later moving to London and also buying a home in Italy. His first solo exhibition was held at Beaux Arts Gallery, London, in 1959. Later exhibitions were organised by the Arts Council of Great Britain in 1982, and in 2003 the Royal Academy of Art in London mounted a major retrospective of his work. Aitchison was elected Royal Academician (RA) in 1988 and was made CBE in 1999. His work is held in the collections of many museums, including the Tate, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and the National Galleries of Scotland.
Aitchison died in December 2009.