The Glasgow School was a circle of influential modern artists and designers who began to coalesce in Glasgow, Scotland in the 1870s, and flourished from the 1890s to sometime around 1910. Representative groups were: The Four (also known as the Spook School), the Glasgow Girls and the Glasgow Boys. They were responsible for creating the distinctive Glasgow Style.
Glasgow experienced an economic boom at the end of the 19th century, resulting in a burst of distinctive contributions to the Art Nouveau movement, particularly in the fields of architecture, interior design, and painting.
The Four (Spook School)
Among the most prominent definers of the Glasgow School loose collective were The Four: the painter and glass artist Margaret MacDonald, acclaimed architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (MacDonald's husband), MacDonald's sister Frances, and Herbert MacNair. Cumulatively, The Four defined the Glasgow Style's syncretistic blend of influences including the Celtic Revival, the Arts and Crafts Movement, and Japonisme, which found favour throughout the modern art world of continental Europe. The Four, otherwise known as the Spook School, ultimately made a great impact on the definition of Art Nouveau.
The Glasgow Girls
The Glasgow Girls were a group of female designers and artists including Margaret and Frances MacDonald who were members of The Four (see above), Jessie M. King, Annie French, Jessie Wylie Newbery, Ann Macbeth, Bessie MacNicol, Norah Neilson Gray, Stansmore Dean, Eleanor Allen Moore, De Courcy Lewthwaite Dewar and Chris J Fergusson (Chrissie Stark) (1876–1957). May Wilson and Eliza Bell (among others) continued the tradition of ceramic artistry into the 1940s and 1950s by hand painting various items with floral patterns.
The Glasgow Boys
Through the 1880s and 1890s—around the same time that the Spook School was gaining prominence—a collective which came to be known as the Glasgow Boys was interpreting and expanding the canon of Impressionist and Post-impressionist painting. Their subject matter featured rural, prosaic scenes from in and around Glasgow. Their colorful depictions attempted to capture the many facets of the character of Scotland.
The Glasgow Boys consisted of several men, most of whom were trained in, or had strong ties to the city of Glasgow. These men were brought together by a passion for realism and naturalism and this showed through in the pieces they produced. Along with this passion for naturalism, they shared a marked distaste for the Edinburgh oriented Scottish art establishment, which they viewed as oppressive. Driven and motivated by these ideals they embraced change, created masterpieces, and became Scottish icons in the process.
Among the painters associated with the group were Joseph Crawhall (1861–1913), Thomas Millie Dow (1848-1919), James Guthrie (1859–1930), George Henry (1858–1943), E. A. Hornel (1864–1933), and E. A. Walton (1860–1922). David Gauld (1865–1936), William Kennedy (1859–1918), John Lavery (1856–1941), Harrington Mann (1864-1937), Stuart Park (1862–1933), William Wells (1872–1923), David Young Cameron (1865–1945), Alexander Ignatius Roche (1861–1923), Arthur Melville (1855–1904), Thomas Corsan Morton (1859-1928), James Nairn (1859–1904), George Pirie (1863-1946) and John Quinton Pringle (1864–1925). James Paterson (1854–1932) and William York Macgregor (1855-1923) were leading figures in the group, which used to meet at Macgregor's studio.
Their main influences were that of Japanese print, French Realism including Jules Bastien-Lepage, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler, but all of their experiences around the world greatly impacted on and inspired their work, in particular in Spain, North Africa, and Japan. The group was constantly influenced by what they saw in the world around them and strove to display these images by utilizing the techniques of realism and naturalism; they had a passion to depict things as they actually are. This is one of the reasons that the group often chose to work outdoors. Working outdoors allowed them to produce paintings that were as true to nature as possible and it allowed them to paint realistic objects in their natural environment. They painted real people in real places. The production of naturalistic paintings was new to this time period, and thus their techniques were considered to be innovative. Similarly, the pieces often created a sense of movement, an accurate (or naturalistic) depiction of light and shade, and extremely realistic texture. This made them stand out in the art community.
Collections and exhibitions
A large collection of work from the Glasgow Boys can be found in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, where one room is dedicated to the group. The museum houses 140 of the Boys' pieces that were created between 1880 and 1900, arguably the time period in which their best, and most innovative, pieces were produced. These pieces are brought together from both public and private collections. More of their works can be found on display at the Burrell Collection, Broughton House, Paisley Museum and The Glasgow Hunterian Gallery.