The Glasgow Boys still drawing crowds more than 100 years on

21st May 2010 at 01:00
Schoolchildren get to study `most significant group of artists in Britain at end of 19th century'

They were credited with putting Glasgow on the international cultural map more than 100 years ago. Now a major exhibition of The Glasgow Boys is attracting record audiences to the city's Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.

Officials have declared themselves "astonished" at the public response to the show "Pioneering Painters: The Glasgow Boys 1880-1900", which opened last month and may, by the time it finishes on September 27, rack up as many ticket sales (under-16s go free) as its recent, more obviously popular exhibitions such as "Dr Who" and "Kylie Minogue".

So, what's the attraction? First and foremost, of course, the art - beautiful paintings such as John Lavery's The Tennis Party, Sir James Guthrie's Funeral Service in the Highlands and The Druids - Bringing in the Mistletoe by George Henry and Edward Hornel. There are more than 140 works in the exhibition, many of them borrowed from public and private collections around the world, but the core drawn from Kelvingrove's own extensive Glasgow Boys collection.

Top-class art can stand on its own but the design and display of the works in this exhibition enhance it. It is no surprise to learn that planning for The Glasgow Boys began more than four years ago. Kelvingrove's temporary exhibition space has been extended and transformed - using lights, colour, glass partitions, false walls, archways and wood panelling - into the kind of gallery in which paintings by Guthrie, Lavery and company would originally have been shown.

The exhibition focuses on the 13 most prominent members of the group; young, ambitious men who did not like the stodgy, old-fashioned paintings being produced by the Scottish art establishment in Edinburgh and set out to prove that their bold, fresh work would find favour - and sales - both at home and abroad.

Now recognised as the "most significant group of artists working in Britain at the end of the 19th century", The Glasgow Boys produced their best work during 1880-1900 and by the turn of the century had achieved their aims and more.

The education programme for the exhibition was launched with a preview for teachers from more than 30 primaries. A painting techniques continuing professional development (CPD) workshop for primary school teachers has already taken place, and a CPD portraiture workshop for secondary school teachers is scheduled for tomorrow.

Between now and the end of September, primary school classes will take part in "Wonderful watercolours" workshops, while "Critical journeys" workshops and a portraiture masterclass will be held for secondary pupils.

Gillian Price from Kirkton Primary in North Lanarkshire has signed up her class of 16 P6 pupils for a "Wonderful watercolours" workshop, as part of a cross-curricular project to create a gallery of pupils' art in their school.

But well over 1,000 pupils are expected to visit with their teachers for self-guided tours of the exhibition, which incorporates touch-screen information posts using simple language to tell the story of the artists and their work (for example, "Guthrie's early portraits are very realistic. He chose people with interesting faces to paint".)

Lenzie Academy art teacher Paul Cassidy is taking 96 S3 pupils to the show to give them a gallery experience and enhance the critical writing element of their Standard grade art course which has been focusing on The Glasgow Boys.

Craigton Primary in Govan has a long tradition of exposing their pupils to art at a young age, so Lesley Booker has no qualms about taking her class of 28 P2s to the show. "I was at the preview," she explains, "and decided that we shouldn't miss the opportunity to see such a fantastic exhibition."

Copies of the DVD that features in the exhibition will be available to schools soon. For further information and to book a workshop, CPD place (limited availability) or to book a self-guided tour for your class, contact Kelvingrove's education department: T 0141 276 95056

scoted@tes.co.uk.

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