In Paris around 1880, the teaching ateliers were crowded. Scots rubbed shoulders with the French, American, Eastern European, Scandinavian and other expatriate students. They were part of the rowdy ‘anglais’ brigade.
In a reaction to the prescribed approach to the Victorian painting of the time, the Glasgow Boys sought a new and ‘modern’ style of painting, where their compositions showed a particular interest in rural realism, in working out-of-doors, and in French-inspired tonal and compositional techniques. The Glasgow Boys consisted of an informal association of some twenty artists. Artists included in The Fine Art Society’s upcoming show numbers Arthur Melville, John Quinton Pringle, E A Walton, James Whitelaw Hamilton, James Paterson and James Guthrie amongst it.
Highlights from the show include a rare and exceptionally well conserved watercolour of Mosul at dawn by Arthur Melville (1855-1904). Probably executed in 1888 it shows riders crossing the Euphrates in dry season to reach the bridge that takes them to the walled city. The skyline of mosques and minarets is set against a sun not yet risen. Melville was lured to remote lands and passed through Mosul en route to Constantinople in May 1882. It was a treacherous journey on horseback, during which the artist was pursued by bandits, dodged bullets and endured a spell in prison.
Another significant exhibit is one of the finest works ever produced by James Whitelaw Hamilton (1860-1932), Autumn Reverie. A picture that looks to the French Realists for its subject but also owes something to the French Symbolists for the stylisation of the composition. From the shade of the trees in the foreground a girl looks out to the Berwickshire coastline in a bucolic scene lit by autumn’s crisp, clear light. The picture, painted in 1895 and exhibited at the Munich International Exhibition, was possibly awarded a gold medal at in 1897.