George Henry, ‘A Japanese Beauty’, 1894, watercolour on board. © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
Exhibition preview - The Glasgow Boys at Glasgow’s Hunterian Gallery until May 16, 2009.
In the late 19th century, a group of Glasgow artists became as fashionable as any trendy modern exhibitors, throwing art parties and shows boasting kaleidoscopic colour, groundbreaking in its unorthodox exuberance.
They became known as The Glasgow Boys, and now Glasgow’s Hunterian Gallery is hosting a display of their work, taking in bold watercolours of Japan, Granada and good old Scotland.
George Henry, ‘A Japanese Pottery Seller’, 1894, watercolour and gouache. © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
“They definitely treated watercolour and pastel as mediums just as noble as paint,” enthuses curator Anne Dulau, who has barely had time to stop and garner public reaction since opening the exhibition on Saturday (December 13, 2008). “Works on paper can’t always be exhibited, so this is a chance for people to come and have a look at work that is normally stored in boxes to protect them from light.”
Members such as Joseph Crawhall (an expeditioner through Morocco and Spain) and Arthur Melville (a feverish portrayer known for his Oriental subjects) were particularly fond of reflecting their globetrotting visions in watercolour, producing some of their most ambitious creations along the way.
James Paterson, ‘Moniaive’, 1889, watercolour. © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
“They were quite adventurous and they definitely produced some of the most striking work of their time, not just in Britain but on a European level,” says Dulau of their forays in the genres. The pieces have initially been loaned to the gallery by a devotee of Scottish art between the late 19th and early 20th century, but will eventually become the property of the surrounding University of Glasgow.
“Unfortunately we don’t have as much space as we’d like in which to hang works, so just to put a show on like this is a great opportunity,” says Dulau, who reckons there are about 20 pieces on display. “It’s not a huge show but there are some very beautiful works – it’s just a riot of colours.”
James Guthrie, ‘Winter’, 1888, pastel on paper. © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
Many of the pieces were heavily influenced by the collective’s admiration for their Dutch and French peers, allowing them to introduce styles which pushed the boundaries of artistic perspective in Scotland.
“When you think of the movements that were active in France at the time, the colours were not necessarily harmonious,” explains Dulau. “They’re just such a delight to work with because it’s very pleasant to the eye as well as being interesting from an art point of view. They just work well together – you don’t need to do very much for them to look good.”
Arthur Melville, ‘A Byway in Granada’, 1891, watercolour. © The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
Exhibition runs until May 16, 2009.