Selling Scottish Art is a Lyon & Turnbull speciality- with two dedicated auctions a year representing all Scottish art movements from the 18th to 20th centuries. A selection of daringly creative, early works by Glasgow Boys, George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel, will be offered in our Scottish Paintings & Sculpture auction on 04 June 2015.
Here specialist and head of department, Nick Curnow, takes a closer look at this intriguing pair of Scottish artists and their unusual collaborative approach to painting. We are now seeking further Scottish paintings and sculpture to sit alongside these high quality works, for more information about selling at auction contact our specialists on 0131 557 8844.
These days the group of artists known as the Glasgow Boys' popularity is undeniable. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum’s exhibition of their work in 2010, Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys, 1880-1900, attracted over 120,000 visitors as well as critical acclaim, smashing an attendance record that had been in place for over 60 years.
Inspired by contemporary French painting and Japanese prints, the Glasgow Boys used realism and naturalism to move away from Victorian sentimentality in painting. They are now recognised as having revolutionised Scottish painting, yet in their lifetime, they were met with mixed critical comments. George Henry, one of the more enigmatic members of the group, painted and exhibited A Galloway Landscape in the early 1890s.
One critic viewed it as ‘the nearest to a masterpiece ever painted by any of the Glasgow Boys,’ while another remained unconvinced that it could be considered art, claiming ‘it may be clever but it is not art. It is utterly destitute alike of perspective, atmosphere, and poetry, three very serious defects, as we take it, in a landscape painting.’
Born in Ayrshire and trained at Glasgow School of Art, Henry became one of the leading figures of the Glasgow School. Throughout the 1880s he worked alongside various member of the group including James Guthrie, Edward Walton, Joseph Crawhall and Arthur Melville, painting out-of-doors at both Brig O’ Turk in the Trossachs and Eyemouth near Cockburnspath. Henry met the artist Edward Atkinson Hornel in 1885 and they quickly formed a strong friendship. Hornel was born in Australia, to Scottish parents, before being raised in Kirkcudbright from the age of two. His artistic training consisted of three years at art school in Edinburgh, followed by two years of further study in Antwerp. After their meeting in 1885, Henry introduced Hornel into the Glasgow Boys circle and the two artists were soon painting out-of-doors and side-by-side in Galloway and Kirkcudbright.
The Hornel-Henry friendship and creative alliance encouraged both artists to develop a more decorative aesthetic with flat perspectives and rich colour, moving slightly away from the naturalism and realism of the Glasgow Boys. This development can be seen in paintings by Henry including A Galloway Landscape (1889) and Round the Mulberry Bush (1890). These stylish and sophisticated works are very rare, as after 1900 Henry seemed to give up on experimentation and settled into painting more conventional portraits and landscapes with figures. A similar trajectory can be traced in Hornel’s work, towards the highly stylised and decorative paintings of young girls in landscapes that have become instantly recognisable and brought him widespread popularity and commercial success. Three Girls Picking Snow-Drops (1902) is a lovely, early example of this kind of work. Hornel remained committed to this decorative style for the following decade, as demonstrated by Snowdrops, Brighouse Bay (1910) and A Quiet Nook (1912), in part due to the commercial popularity of the themes.
Their decorative aesthetic was developed even further when Henry and Hornel moved into collaborative working on joint compositions in 1890. They completed the daring The Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe using incised gesso and overlaid gold to create a striking decorative effect and later worked in partnership on The Star in the East (1891). Henry and Hornel were also some of the first British artists to travel to Japan, setting off on a nineteenth-month research and painting trip in 1893, funded by art-dealer Alexander Reid and collector William Burrell.
This selection of artworks by George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel, which will be offered in our Scottish Paintings & Sculpture sale on 04 June 2015, draws attention to key moments in their artistic development and ably demonstrates how similar influences and ideas experienced and shared by artists working side-by-side can be transformed into strikingly different styles on the canvas.