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Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880 - 1900

Arthur Melville. Brig o'Turk, 1893. Watercolour, 60.8 x 86.4 cm. The Robertson Collection, Orkney. Photo The Robertson Collection, Orkney.

Exhibition preview

AN EXHIBITION entitled Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880 – 1900 will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts from October 30, 2010 to January 23, 2011.

The first exhibition of its kind in London for over 40 years, Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880 – 1900 celebrates 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 symbolic 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 realistic 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 – 1883) 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.

A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition. Celebrating and re-examining the Glasgow Boys’ vital contribution to Scottish Art, the book brings together all their major works and includes essays by Roger Billcliffe, Kenneth McConkey, Mark O’Neill, Hugh Stevenson and Jean Walsh.

Admission: £9 full price; £8 registered disabled and 60+ years; £7 NUS/ISIC cardholders; £4 12 – 18 years and Income Support; £3 8 – 11 years; 7 and under free.

Times: Daily from 10am to 6pm (last admission 5.30pm); Fridays until 10pm (last admission 9.30pm).

Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London, W1J 0BD

Tel: 020 7300 8000

Treasures from Budapest: European Masterpieces from Leonardo to Schiele continues at the Royal Academy of Arts until December 12, 2010.