Artist: George Henry

Date of Birth:
1858
Date of Death:
1943
Place of Death:
London
Education:

Glasgow School of Art; Attended life classes at W Y MacGregor’s studio.

Professional Bodies:

ARSA 1892; RSA 1902; ARA 1907; RA 1920

Exhibited At:

Royal Academy; Royal Scottish Academy; RSW; Aberdeen Artists’ Society; Royal Society of British Artists; Royal Institute of Oil Painters; Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts

Associates:

Painted with Crawhall.  Guthrie and Walton at Brig o’ Turk.  Worked with Melville at Cockburnspath.  Met E A Hornel in 1885 and painted with him in Galloway.

Bibliography:

A Galloway Landscape, George Buchanan, Scottish Arts Review, 7, 1960.

Mr Henry and Mr Hornel Visit Japan, William Buchanan, Scottish Arts Council, Edinburgh, 1979.

Scottish Art, Murdo Macdonald, Thames and Hudson, London, 2003.

Kirkcudbright: one hundred years of an artists’ colony, Patrick Bourne, Atelier Books, Edinburgh, 2000.

SCRAN Pathfinder pack, Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists, Haig Gordon, Kirkcudbright, 2006.

Notes:

A Galloway Landscape dates from 1889.  Exhibited Royal Scottish Academy 1991-2, described as “The nearest to a masterpiece ever painted by any of the Glasgow Boys”.  Produced The Druids and The Star in the East with Hornel.  Painted with Hornel in Galloway 1885.  Went with Hornel to Japan 1893.  Stewartry Museum has copy of Annan photo from Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  A Galloway Landscape, 1889 and The Druids, Bringing Home the Mistletoe, with E A Hornel, 1890 illustrated in Murdo Macdonald p139 (see bibliography).  See also Bourne p10 (see bibliography).

Image.  Photograph of the artist by T and R Annan, Glasgow.  For more information visit the web site www.annangallery.co.uk


George Henry, forever to be associated with E A Hornel and the Glasgow Boys, produced in “A Galloway Landscape (1889)” one of the most distinctive and emblematic paintings of the region.

It was certainly revolutionary in its approach.  Craigdarroch Water by James Paterson, painted the same year shows a contrasting approach to landscape painting.  Henry’s picture with its flattened perspective and bold use of colour has seen comparisons with the Post Impressionists like Gaugin.  The title is indicative of its non-realistic nature.  Although some have tried to identify the location of the painting it seems a pointless exercise.  It is simply a hill, a burn and some cows.  A Galloway Landscape.

Henry’s picture caused bafflement and alarm when it was first shown at the Glasgow Institute in 1890.  The Hanging Committee, of whom James Paterson was one, placed the Glasgow Boys’ pictures in one room, dubbed “the Chamber of Horrors”.  A Galloway Landscape came in for particular criticism,

“Take for instance A Galloway Landscape of George Henry.  It may be clever but it is not art.  It is utterly destitute alike of perspective, atmosphere, and poetry, three very serious defects, as we take it, in a landscape picture.”

[Helensburgh and Gareloch Times 12/02/1890]

George Henry never developed this style further, giving the painting a greater importance and adding to its enigma.  The Druids, a joint effort with Hornel, shows a similar approach but in a decorative setting. Henry fell ill soon after and left Kirkcudbright to recuperate in Ayrshire.  In 1893 he set off for Japan with Hornel and this was again to alter his painting style.  On his return he turned to portraits and moved to London where he became a successful society artist.

In 1996 the New Statesman asked “the great and the good to choose works of art they would love to find in their Christmas stocking”.

Ian Jack wrote …unrealistically (the Glasgow art galleries aren’t going to hand it over), George Henry’s painting Galloway Landscape.  I don’t know why.  It’s just some black and white cows under a blue sky on a green hill.  Perhaps because it is so simple, restful and luminous…