Settled amongst the pastoral hills and lush valleys of the Galloway landscape, Kirkcudbright was a refreshing change from the booming industrialisation of late nineteenth-century cities. Artists were drawn to the town’s charming historic buildings and the enchanting woodlands of the region. The mild climate of the Galloway countryside encouraged flowering foliage and artists were challenged to capture the changing colours of the landscape throughout the seasons. This attractive little town, situated at the mouth of the River Dee on the north Solway shore, quickly blossomed into an artists’ colony.
The ‘Kirkcudbright School,’ as the group became known, was composed of both local and visiting artists, including William MacDonald, E.A. Taylor, Chris Fergusson and William Mouncey - artists whose works are offered in this sale. This ‘School’ of artists were all united under the leadership of Kirkcudbright native E.A. Hornel.
After studying art in Edinburgh at the Trustees Academy and then in Antwerp under Charles Verlat, Hornel returned to his home in Kirkcudbright in 1885 and began to paint the nature and inhabitants of the surrounding Galloway landscape. Lyon & Turnbull is delighted to offer a selection of works from this leader of the Kirkcudbright School. Japanese Girl with Peaches, inspired by his trip to Japan in 1893, shows Hornel’s concern with colour harmonies and texture, while his scenes of young girls in forest and seashore settings showcase his experimentation with form and an emphasis on subject matter. Hornel’s rich, playful colour palette and dappling light are echoed in the works of his Kirkcudbright contemporaries.
William Mouncey, a Kirkcudbright native, was advised by Hornel early in his career and spent most of his life in and around the town, capturing the essence of the coast and countryside on his canvases. Mouncey’s textured, dappling light, combined with the livestock and rural setting in Cattle Grazing in a Wooded Landscape is the epitome of a classic Kirkcudbright School scene. In this singular work, one can see the pervading style of the School and the artists’ collective affinity for light, colour, and admiration for the local landscape.
Drawing inspiration from across the region, E.A. Taylor and Christian Jane Fergusson worked in watercolour to recreate the quaint streets and historic buildings of Kirkcudbright and the surrounding towns. Several fine examples of these watercolours are offered here in our Scottish Paintings sale. Both artists employ line and colour to capture the character of the buildings. It is so easy to be distracted by the charm and calm of the setting, that one barely notices the lack of people.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, artists gathered in these colonies to escape the pressures and restrictions imposed by art academies and urban life. Towns like Kirkcudbright promoted a more simple and tranquil lifestyle, untouched by the ‘corrupted morals’ of the cities, and allowed artists the freedom to experiment with their style, technique, and subject matter. Because the Victorians regarded the dirty and densely populated industrial cities as hubs of immoral activities, there was a growing desire to move back to nature and the leisure and purity of rural life, which they found through these towns in the countryside.
The work produced by members of the Kirkcudbright School echo the light and airy atmosphere of the town, and exude the feelings of tranquillity and leisure that were pervasive in the countryside. We were delighted to present a fine selection of works by members of the Kirkcudbright school in our December 2020 Scottish Paintings & Sculpture auction.
Lyon & Turnbull’s Scottish Paintings & Sculpture specialists host two auctions per year from our Scottish auction house based in Edinburgh. Successfully selling around 90% of Scottish Colourist works handled in the last eight years, a record unmatched by our competitors – selling Scottish art in Scotland has always been a Lyon & Turnbull lynchpin. Our specialists are experts not only on the works of Scottish artists, but also on the workings of the art market, and it is this combination that fuels our on-going success in the field.