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Largest Glasgow Girls exhibition since 1990 opens in city

Arianna Pedrazzoli, gallery manager for Lyon & Turnbull Glasgow, observes selection of Glasgow Girls pieces (Pics: Lyon & Turnbull/Julie Howden)

THEIR artworks are indelibly associated with Scotland’s largest city, but now a major new exhibition set to bring together the largest collection of pieces by the Glasgow Girls in more than 30 years.

The display, which opens today and runs until September 16, will celebrate the output of artists and designers such as Bessie MacNicol, Margaret Wright, and Katherine Cameron, who were among a group of gifted artists and designers working in Scotland between late 19th and early 20th Century.
Subsequently dubbed ‘The Glasgow Girls’ in 1968, they won critical acclaim in exhibitions held in Berlin, Vienna, and Turin, leading to popular demand for their art and objects to be displayed in homes and public venues such as tearooms.

However, the Glasgow style – characterised by linear motifs derived from nature – fell out of favour after the First World War and retrospectives of the era largely largely airbrushed out the contribution of The Glasgow Girls until a revival of interest in the 1990s.

The new exhibition, displaying select paintings and works of art from private collections at auction house Lyon & Turnbull’s Glasgow gallery in Bath Street, is believed to be the single biggest gathering of Glasgow Girls pieces since the highly-acclaimed 1990 exhibition held at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Museum in 1990.

Exhibition curator, James McNaught, associate director and head of Lyon & Turnbull’s Glasgow and west coast Scotland team, said: “The Glasgow Girls were a diverse group of talented artists who worked across a range of disciplines – most notably painting.

“This exhibition focuses on these arguably neglected artists. The Glasgow Girls achieved success both critically and commercially at home and abroad, having their work mentioned and sometimes illustrated in influential periodicals of the day, such as The Studio magazine.

“This meant that their talent was shared internationally which resulted in them showing in exhibitions all over Europe.

“At home, they held shows and produced domestic pieces of art which could be seen in many homes in and around the west of Scotland.

“We are thrilled to bring some of their works together in our Glasgow gallery. Not only were they great artists, many were close friends.

“I’m particularly pleased to see the stunning paintings by Bessie MacNicol paintings on display together.
“I doubt this many have been seen together since the exhibition at Kelvingrove in the early the early 1990s.”

The Glasgow Girls attended the Glasgow School of Art where they formed close friendships.
Many of them went on to become teachers at the art school, or to work together in studios in the surrounding areas of Glasgow.

Like their male counterparts, the Glasgow Boys, this group of women artists had trouble being accepted or appreciated by the traditional art establishments in Edinburgh.

Included in the display is a selection of rarely seen paintings by Bessie MacNicol, widely recognised as one of the most talented artists of the era.

MacNicol, who died in childbirth aged 34, was one of the first wave of women artists who travelled to Paris from the UK to study art in the late 1800s.

A delicate watercolour entitled The Flower of the Heather by Katherine Cameron will also be on display.
The work will be offered at auction by Lyon & Turnbull in October, after the exhibition closes.

Other artists featured in the exhibition include: Stansmore Dean, Katherine Cameron, Norah Neilson Gray, Eleanor Allen Moore, Ann Macbeth, Margaret Wright, Helen Paxton Brown and De Courcy Lewthwaite Dewar.

Journalist and author Maggie Ritchie, whose third novel, ‘Daisy Chain’, was inspired by the lives of The Glasgow Girls, will also be speaking about her fiction and their work against the backdrop of the Glasgow exhibition at a special event on September 13.

By Helen McArdle – The Herald