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The Glasgow Boys


In 1880 Glasgow, the second city of the British Empire, was financially rich but culturally impoverished. Within a decade the city had produced some of the most avant-garde artists in Britain known as The Glasgow Boys. They included James Guthrie, Joseph Crawhall, Arthur Melville, James Paterson, E.A. Hornel, Sir John Lavery, E.A. Walton, William Kennedy and George Henry. Joseph Crawhall and George Henry in particular painted some fantastic animal paintings.  Click here to see Noon Day by E.A. Walton. and a lovely painting of horses ploughing, entitled "Ploughing the Minister's Glebe" by John Reid Murray (I am not sure if the latter is considered a Glasgow Boy but its the same era and is a lovely painting !).

Many trained on the continent, particularly in France. They rejected the conventions of Victorian art and favoured more decorative and impressionistic approaches. They introduced forms of impressionism to Scotland in the 1880s and 1890s developing their own individual interpretations of it, often highly coloured. They were inspired by the Scottish artist Whistler and also by the French Impressionists and by Japanese Art. They used strong colours to show light and shade and the colours of the sun, as they had seen from the French artists Cezanne, Pissarro etc.

Working at roughly the same time as the architect and designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, they revolutionised Scottish painting from 1880 until about 1895.  They rebelled against traditional Victorian sentimentality and as well as painting in Glasgow and its environs, they sought scenes of rural life and character in other parts of Scotland and painted these everyday subjects in a fresh, new way, often capturing their subjects by painting out of doors.

Here are a couple of lovely books. In particular I can recommend the Glasgow Boys book by Roger Billcliffe, which has many lovely illustrations, including Noon by George Henry on the front cover.