In the Sackler Wing of Galleries
In October 2010 the Royal Academy of Arts will present the first exhibition in London for over 40 years to celebrate the achievement of the Glasgow Boys, the loosely knit group of young painters who created a stir at home and abroad in the final decades of the nineteenth century.
The exhibition will feature over 80 oil paintings, watercolours and pastels from public and private collections by such artists as Guthrie, Lavery, Melville, Crawhall, Walton, Henry and Hornel. Together they presented a new art, which had a major impact at home and abroad in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. The resultant works were, from c. 1880 to 1900, among the most experimental and ambitious to be produced in the UK.
Taking inspiration from such French Naturalist painters as Bastien-Lepage and also from Whistler, the Glasgow Boys produced some of the most revolutionary painting in Britain, drawing praise in London, Munich, Vienna and further afield. Their symbolist pictures were admired and emulated in secessionist circles in Germany and Austria.
The exhibition maps the Glasgow Boys’ responses in both subject matter and technique to developments in art which were taking place in Paris in the 1870s and 1880s. These artists sought to liberate their art from the staid, dark toned narrative paintings being produced in Glasgow and Edinburgh in order to explore the effects of realist subject matter and the particular effects of light captured through working out of doors, directly in front of the motif.
The subject matter of the works is largely scenes from rural – mainly Scottish – life, including studies of individual figures, such as James Guthrie, To Pastures New (1882–3) and The Hind’s Daughter (1883), George Henry, Noon (1885) and Edward Arthur Walton, A Berwickshire Fieldworker (1884). Landscapes include the striking Autumn in Glencairn (1887) by James Paterson and A Galloway Landscape (1889), by George Henry. A significant group of works also record modern urban life, including John Lavery, The Tennis Party (1885) and William Kennedy, Stirling Station (1887). Another group shows the impact on artists such as John Lavery, William Kennedy and Arthur Melville of their experience of working in France at Grez-sur-Loing, a picturesque village to the southeast of Paris which attracted an international community of artists. The exhibition closes with a section presenting the legacy of the Glasgow Boys in the early twentieth century as it was defined by only a few of the members of the group, notably Lavery and Guthrie as portraitists, and by the short-lived Melville, who was a supreme experimenter in image making and technique, both oil and watercolour.
Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880 – 1900 is an exhibition from Glasgow Museums in association with the Royal Academy of Arts. The exhibition has been curated by Jean Walsh, Senior Curator, and Hugh Stevenson, Curator of British Art, Glasgow Museums with consultant curators Roger Billcliffe and Patrick Bourne, together with MaryAnne Stevens, Director of Academic Affairs at the Royal Academy of Arts.