Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880–1900
- Talitha Kotzé
- 4 May 2010
The Glasgow Boys were a pioneering group of the late 1800s, consisting of both Scottish and international artists. Their work is put under scrutiny in a major new retrospective exhibition. It is not so much the story of the Glasgow Boys, their influences and legacy that is intriguing, but the fact that they produced such technically well-executed works of art – the breadth of their palettes and the realist attempt of their subject matter provide delectable viewing.
The group looked at global trends and was particularly influenced by French oil painter Jules Bastien-Lepage’s square brushstrokes and affinity for painting everyday scenes. But perhaps a more appropriate hero – if you consider how the Scottish light conditions differ from the formulaic palettes of their French contemporaries – was James McNeill Whistler: his grasp of handling twilight was paramount.
‘A Joiner’s Shop’ by William York Macgregor was commissioned by the owner in 1881: wood shavings fill the space and gives a boldly handled impressionist rendition of a joiner’s workshop on Argyle Street. These types of paintings that show the commercial life of the city are rare in the Boys’ oeuvre.
A narrative thread guides the viewer through the seminal moments of the group’s development, their Japanese and Symbolist influences, and travels abroad. Towards the end of the exhibition you will encounter a work by James Paterson, ‘Autumn in Glencairn’. An incredibly powerful and atmospheric depiction of the Caledonian landscape with colours so true to its unique light.
Pioneering Painters is well worth a visit.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, until Mon 27 Sep