About

The Glasgow Boys represent the beginnings of modernism in Scottish art. In the early 1880s, disillusioned by the artistic establishment’s emphasis on history painting, they recorded contemporary rural life, often working out of doors. This display also introduces the Glasgow Girls who produced radical modernist designs in a wide range of media.

The Glasgow Boys 1880–1900

The Glasgow Boys represent the beginnings of modernism in Scottish art. In the early 1880s, disillusioned by the artistic establishment’s emphasis on history painting, they recorded contemporary rural life, often working out of doors. They were influenced by the realism of Dutch and French art and by the tonal painting and colour harmonies of James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903).

A world-leading industrial centre, Glasgow was home to wealthy merchants with a taste for modern art. Led by James Guthrie and John Lavery, the Glasgow Boys were supported by the art dealer Alexander Reid (1854–1928); they exchanged ideas in the studio of William York Macgregor, or through working together at artists’ colonies in rural Scotland and France.

By the late 1880s their work was characterised by bold, vigorous, painterly handling and an increasing emphasis on the decorative. They absorbed the lessons of Impressionism and the brilliant colours and flattened forms of Japanese prints. By the mid-1890s they enjoyed an international reputation, exhibiting throughout Europe and the USA.

The Glasgow Girls

Until the late 19th century most women were denied access to art schools. From the mid-1880s, coinciding with the appointment of Francis Newbery (1855–1946) as director, the Glasgow School of Art became a training ground for a talented generation of women artists. The Glasgow Girls produced radical modernist designs in a wide range of media, including decorated ceramics, metalware and embroidery. Fine examples of watercolours by Bessie MacNicol, Frances and Margaret Macdonald and others can be viewed in the prints and drawings collection.

Many of the Glasgow Girls’ paintings remain in private hands. We are grateful to the Fleming Collection for lending this outstanding work by Flora Macdonald Reid, one of a few women artists to paint contemporary subjects in a naturalist style. Some, such as MacNicol, attended the Académie Colarossi in Paris, which welcomed female students. Reid travelled independently to France and Belgium. Like many of the Glasgow Boys she was inspired by the large-scale figure painting, high horizon, flattened perspective and painterly technique of the French artist Jules Bastien-Lepage.

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Display accessibility

  • Large print labels
  • Wheelchair access

Location

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Accessibility

Gallery facilities

Detailed information on accessibility at the National Galleries of Scotland

Our partial Changing Places toilet has all of the facilities of a full Changing Places toilet, and though the floor area meets the overall size requirement (13.54m2 minimum), it is just a little too narrow to be classed as a full Changing Places toilet.

There are a limited number of small lockers available, but there is no space to store large items of luggage.

There is limited on street parking close by including for those with a blue badge. 

  • Information desk
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair access
  • Accessible toilets
  • Changing places toilet
  • Wheelchairs available
  • Public toilets
  • Lockers (£1/£2)
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Buggy park
  • Seating throughout
  • Bike rack
  • Café
  • Restaurant
Getting here

Getting here

The National can be found just off Princes Street in the city centre.

Venue map
  • Open daily, 10am–5pm
The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL

In Focus

In this series devoted to Scottish Art, we look at paintings by some of the nation’s finest artists. We examine them to uncover what makes each work so special and reveal some of the stories behind them.

Watch the whole series

A Hind's Daughter by Sir James Guthrie

A Hind's Daughter was painted by James Guthrie, one of the leading painters in the group of artists called the Glasgow Boys. His early works of rural subjects painted with broad square brush strokes show the strong influence of French artists like Jules Bastien-Lepage.

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