Perth Art Gallery: Spoilt for Choice

I am spoilt for choice in helping to select displays for Culture Perth and Kinross’s refreshed Perth Art Gallery. It is a exciting time in the Scottish city with the new Perth Museum opening in the former City Hall in 2024. This means that the former Perth Museum and Art Gallery will become a dedicated gallery, with new displays opening in Spring 2023.

George Henry (1858-1943), In a Tokyo Garden, 1893-95, oil on canvas, 64 x 77cm
Perth & Kinross Council: Gift from the Trustees of the Artist’s Estate 1945

Scottish Art from the 19th-century to Now

Perth’s fine art holdings are a Recognised Collection of National Significance. This means that I am having a wonderful time suggesting works of modern and contemporary Scottish art to be installed and interpreted for visitors’ enjoyment and education. One of my early favourites is In a Toyko Garden by George Henry (1858-1943) of 1893-95. He is known as a ‘Glasgow Boy’, a loose association of pioneering artists who made their names in the late nineteenth-century. Having trained at Glasgow School of Art, Henry travelled to Japan with Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864-1933) in 1893-94. This trip inspired a remarkable series of paintings, including the assured example in Perth; it was presented to the collection by the Trustees of Henry’s estate two years after his death.

Alexander Stuart-Hill (1889-1948), Lilias Livingstone Mackinnon, c.1920, oil on paper, 127 x 102cm
Perth & Kinross Council: Bequeathed by the Sitter in 1974

A Glamorous Portrait

Whilst going through Perth’s collection on Art UK a glamorous portrait of about 1920 by Alexander Stuart-Hill (1889-1948) caught my eye. I had not heard of him before, but a bit of research uncovered the information that he was the son of a Perth fish merchant. It is not known where he trained, but he exhibited widely, including with the New English Art Club, Royal Academy and Royal Scottish Academy, from a base in Chelsea, London. His sitter, Lilias Livingstone Mackinnon (1889-1974) is believed to have been a Scottish-born concert pianist. She bequeathed her portrait to Perth in 1974.

John Maxwell (1905-62), Wall Vase, 1951, oil on panel, 37 x 48cm
Perth & Kinross Council: Bequeathed by George and Isobel Neillands, 1988 (c) Artist’s Estate

The Edinburgh School

I have a particular interest in the Edinburgh School group of artists who came to the fore after World War Two. As a result, Wall Vase of 1951 by John Maxwell (1905-62) is on my Perth shortlist. The ‘School’ included William Gillies, Robin Philipson and Anne Redpath, amongst others, most of whom trained at Edinburgh College of Art. Maxwell studied there between 1921 and 1927 and was a member of its staff at various points in his career. Wall Vase is a beautiful example of his ethereal work of the period. It was bequeathed to Perth in 1988 by the collectors Geoge and Isobel Neillands, who gave a significant number of Maxwells to the National Galleries of Scotland the year before.

Michelle de Bruin (b.1967), Beaver, 2015, limestone
Perth & Kinross Council: Purchased as part of the Commissioned Broom Cupboard Project 2015 (c) The Artist

A Limestone Beaver

I have admired the work of artist, stonecarver and lettercutter Michelle de Bruin (b.1967) since visiting her studio at Marchmont House in the Scottish Borders. She trained at Glasgow School of Art and in 2008 began a series called Natural History: The Broom Cupboard. This is partly about the collecting and display of natural history specimens, areas which will be highlights of the new Perth Museum. Beaver of 2015 shows the artist’s prowess at carving, in this instance in limestone, as she realises the three-dimensional form of the mammal with simplified yet painstaking detail. It was commissioned and thereafter purchased by Perth in the year in which it was made.

The Perth team and I now need to progress from ‘spoilt for choice’ to ‘final selection’. I hope you will enjoy the results when visiting the refreshed Perth Art Gallery later this year.

For an article about Perth’s holdings of works by John Duncan Fergusson, follow this link. George Henry is featured in this Signs of Spring blog, whilst John Maxwell appears in Harvest Time.

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