Burrell at Kelvingrove: Joseph Crawhall
Works by William Burrell's favourite Glasgow Boy on tour while permanent home is refurbished
William Burrell collected more works by Glasgow Boy Joseph Crawhall than any other artist, so he is a fitting choice for the first exhibition of Burrell works at Kelvingrove while the collection's home in Pollock Park is closed for refurbishment. These 23 paintings, mainly watercolour and gouache, shown earlier this year at the Fleming Collection, allow us a more intimate glimpse of the man whom Whistler called "the truest artist of the Glasgow men".
A reticent figure - Lavery called him 'the great silence' - Crawhall had only two major exhibitions in his lifetime, but he was, we learn here, a keen horse-rider, a great lover of animals and a man possessed of a sharp wit. His cartoon sketch of his sister wobbling along on her bicycle with the family dachshund in pursuit, ears flapping, is a glorious thing.
He seems to have reveled in watercolour. His paintings of goats and camels in Tangiers (where he was the painting companion of Arthur Melville, and played a vigorous part in ex-pat life) balance clearly defined animal forms with a desert mirage effect of pale washes of colour. While he was a master of form, the abstract is never far away; influenced by Japanese prints, he explored and experimented with balancing blocks of colour, tone and light.
His love of animals comes through here again and again. In 'The Hunt' and 'The Meet', there is more expression in the faces of the dogs than of the riders. The beautiful colours of the captive birds in 'The Aviary' helped make his reputation. Whether capturing a bullfight, a rook taking flight, or an exhausted farm boy riding home on the swaying haunches of a horse, these works reveal Crawhall as an artist of great subtlety and charm.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, until July 2017.