Craigie Aitchison was born in Kincardie-on-Forth in Scotland, growing up here his childhood holidays were often spent at Lamash, on the mountainous island of Arran. His father was an imminent socialist lawyer who became Lord Justice Clerk of Scotland. Craigie spent a year at Edinburgh University as a law student and a further two at the Middle Temple in London, but as his taste for the law diminished so his taste for art increased.
He took private lessons from Adrian Daintry, the portrait painter and art critic of Punch, who encouraged Aitchison to attend art school. In 1952 he entered the Slade School of Fine Art in London. The teaching he received there, with its methods of observation and measurement, were a great benefit to him. Two years later Craigie was awarded the British Council Italian Government Scholarship to Rome.
On this scholarship Aitchison visited Italy for the first time. The landscape and the religious art, so unlike his own forbidding Presbyterianism background (his grandfather was a minister of the Kirk), greatly inspired him. After this first visit to Italy, he returned to Scotland to live and paint, later moving to London and buying a home in Italy. His first solo exhibition was held at the Beaux-Arts Gallery, London in 1959. Since then he has exhibited widely in the United Kingdom, and overseas in locations as diverse as Tokyo (1969), Delhi (1984) and Jerusalem (1992). 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.