Stunning Glasgow Boy painting bought for Scottish National Gallery
- Scottish National Gallery
- 3 December 2013
An experimental painting by 'Glasgow Boy' Arthur Melville has been bought for the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh with help from the Art Fund.
With its highly unusual subject matter and remarkably modern treatment of the scene, the Chalk Cutting confirms Arthur Melville's status as one of the most innovative British painters of the late 19th century.
Melville was born in Forfarshire (now Angus), and trained at the Royal Scottish Academy. He sold his early painting A Cabbage Garden (1877; bought for the Scottish National Gallery with Art Fund support in 2007) to an East Lothian industrialist to finance studies in Paris, where he worked between 1878 and 1880.
The emphasis on tonal harmony that he discovered in avant-garde French painting had a profound influence on his own practice, and by the time he met James Guthrie, George Henry and E.A. Walton – painters who, together with Melville, would come to be known as the Glasgow Boys – his distinctive style was already established.
Perhaps because of its stunning experimentalism, The Chalk Cutting was never exhibited in Melville's lifetime. The portrayal of contemporary industry was unusual not only among the work of Glasgow Boys, but across Victorian art as a whole.
The painting was acquired for £72,000, with a grant of £25,000 from the Art Fund. It will join other Glasgow School works in the Scottish National Gallery collection, including Sir James Guthrie's masterpiece In The Orchard, bought with Art Fund support in 2012.
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said: “The Art Fund trustees were struck by the fresh modernity of Melville’s luminous painting The Chalk Cutting. He is one of the most significant Scottish painters of the later 19th century, and this quietly radical work will find an ideal home at the Scottish National Gallery. If the reception of its temporary display in May is anything to go by, it will prove an extremely popular and important acquisition.”
The Chalk Cutting goes on show at the Scottish National Gallery today, with a complementary display of some of Melville's most stunning watercolours from the national collection.