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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Joyful
The major exhibition in Glasgow this year of The Glasgow Boys, a group of artists painting in the late 19th Century, has restimulated interest in their work. The exhibition, which was at Kelvingrove Museum for several months, has now moved to London's Royal Academy. Roger Billcliffe's eponymously titled tome on The Glasgow Boys was first published in 1985, when it...
Published on 8 Oct. 2010 by Leyla Sanai

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars NICE ILLUSTRATIONS, TEDIOUS TEXT
If you are a meticulous student of this particular minor art movement, you will probably share the views of the majority of reviewers. If, however, you want an entertaining read to go with your visual delights, you will be as disappointed as I was. The text, although I suppose it merits the description "scholarly", is hard work and uninspiring, if not tedious, which is as...
Published on 16 Aug. 2011 by Jeff Walmsley


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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Joyful, 8 Oct. 2010
By 
Leyla Sanai "leyla" (glasgow) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
The major exhibition in Glasgow this year of The Glasgow Boys, a group of artists painting in the late 19th Century, has restimulated interest in their work. The exhibition, which was at Kelvingrove Museum for several months, has now moved to London's Royal Academy. Roger Billcliffe's eponymously titled tome on The Glasgow Boys was first published in 1985, when it received the Scottish Arts Council Book Award, and was republished in 2008 with many more colour plates.

It is the sumptuous and generous number of illustrations that first struck me about this volume. There are 284 of them, the vast majority in gorgeous blazing colour, many of them large enough to discern detail. It's one of those art books you just want to gaze at, and one reason why e books will never supplant the paper version.

Billcliffe has a list of impressive qualifications to his name. He used to lecture at Glasgow University, is a former Keeper of the University Art Collection, an ex Keeper of Fine Arts at Glasgow Art Gallery, and was Director of the Fine Art Society. He also runs a fabulous art gallery in Glasgow, the Roger Billcliffe Gallery in Blythswood Street, a multi-floored Victorian mansion where even the winding staircases are stuffed with beautiful art.

Billcliffe's balance between prose and pictures in the book is perfect, being around 50:50. With almost 300 pages at a size 25% larger than A4, this means a lot of information. But when the writing refers so frequently to illustrations, as here, reading the history of the Boys is never dry, being instead a delight where every few sentences are interspersed with references to another fabulous picture.

After a short overview of Glasgow's role in the world in the middle to late nineteeth century, Billcliffe moves on to outline the alliances that built up between disparate groups of artists working in or near Glasgow and born in the second half of the 1800s. Black and white photographs of the individuals help to bring the characters alive, as do excerpts from existing documents of the day written by the more outspoken of the artists. Some of these quotes would not be out of place today, as this account of studying art in an atelier in Paris by James Paterson, published in the Scottish Art Review in 1888:

`To the student of human nature the nondescript gathering of nationalities and `types' will be ever interesting. The flaneur, who looks in occasionally to see what is being done by others...; the blageur who has always some tomfoolery in hand; the jeune homme arrive' , who had a third-class medal in last Salon, and gives himself airs accordingly..., while no less conspicuous will be the pet of the studio, whose studies it is openly hinted surpass the work of the maitre, who has nearly attained the Grand Prix de Rome, and will probably continue to produce accomplished technical studies which may become fashionable but can never become real art.'

From Billcliffe's account it becomes clear that the artists who made up the loose grouping The Glasgow Boys almost all had in common a rejection of the predominant themes in art of the day, especially `gluepot' paintings characterised by heavy use of the brown tarry megilp, and overtly sentimental representations of imagined events in history or in the lives of the working classes. They also rejected the bland, stilted depictions of landscapes practiced widely in the 1860s. Many of the Boys were also initially excluded by the establishment, who refused to allow them entry to The Glasgow Art Club. Friendships built up, notably between Paterson and Macgregor, Guthrie, Walton and Crawhall, Henry and Hornel, and Lavery, Kennedy, Roche and Millie Dow. Some of these artists were not Glasweigan by birth - Lavery, for example, was born in Belfast, and Melville was an Edinburgh man. But the artists all shared influences and ideas and many of them travelled and painted together.

Billcliffe is meticulous in pointing out the influences the Boys had from France, in particular Jules Bastien-Lepage. Some of the latter's astonishingly lifelike paintings of rural peasants (in whose community the artist immersed himself) are reproduced here and many of their characteristics were echoed by The Boys for decades, in particular his way of depicting depth by painting the foreground in great detail and changing to a much softer, more impressionistic technique for the distant background. Bastein-Lepage's interest in the non-sentimentalised lives of the ordinary country working classes rubbed off on The Boys. Incredibly, Bastien-Lepage, and thus his Glasgow Boy followers, were critically slammed in some quarters for not oozing the patronizing sentiment found in many populist paintings of the time.

Another great influence on the boys was Stott from Oldham, whose horizontal lines and riverscapes some of the Boys would emulate. Stott himself was influenced by Bastien-Lepage; the same capturing of space by placing a detailed tree or long rushes in the foreground to contrast with the more blurred images in the distance. Stott's wonderful, shimmery paintings of rivers reflecting country houses, fringed by English countryside, with rural figures unselfconsciously basking in the sunlight are breathtaking, and obviously made an impression on the Boys.

Billcliffe takes the reader through the movements and developments of the Boys: their adoption of the Plein Air technique of painting outside, their travels to places which inspired them such as Crowland, Northumberland and Surrey in England, Stonehaven, Brig o' Turk or Rosneath in Scotland, and Grez in France. Because of their friendships they would often travel in small groups, and even those that didn't hang around together saw the others' works in the annual exhibitions at the Glasgow Institute. This resulted in paintings by different members of the group of similar subjects and places, such as the cabbage gardens of rural workers chosen by Melville, Guthrie, Henry and Spence. Progress in the individuals' work are plain to see from the illustrations, and it is fascinating to see the maturation and development occurring over the years. The improvement in Guthrie's figure drawing which led eventually to masterpieces like To Pastures New, Schoolmates and In the Orchard is mesmerising, as is his move from dark, sombre colours - which had their place, in his groundbreaking A Funeral Servive in the Highlands - to sunlight and a broader, cheerier palette.

The influence of exploring further afield is also evident. Melville was drawn to Asia and Africa, and his majestic watercolours of a Turkish Bath and a Pasha awaiting meetings with his people on an exotic carpet in a sun-drenched courtyard, are a testament to the power of travel to inspire. Hornel and Henry ventured to Japan and were captivated by its culture and women, producing some stunning paintings of Japanese women and geishas.

Among the joys of the work of the Glasgow Boys is their use of colour, light, dappled sunshine, shadow, figures going about their ordinary lives and nature in its glory. All are evident here. Even simple subjects, such as the cows Crawhall was drawn to, are injected with tones of warmth and harmony, splodges of blues and reds that would not be out of place on the fauvists' brushes appearing to indicate shading or emphasise shadow.

As the years go by, the Boys tried new subjects.In the mid to late 1880s artists like Lavery moved to depicting the middle classes in their new pursuits - tennis and tricycles, which at the time were quite novel pastimes for women. Some of the other artists moved in different directions - a symbolism entered the work of some, others moved to portrait painting.

Billcliffe is always a highly intelligent and eloquent teacher and has structured the large amount of material in a logical and easy to digest format. His writing is stimulating and enlightening without ever over-burdening the reader, and everything that he says about the art is verifiable from the paintings. This is immensely refreshing - there is none of the fanciful egotism one sometimes sees in writing about art, where motives and meanings are imagined where none are readily apparent.

This is a beautiful book, one that any art lover will pore over lovingly, and it clarifies the history of an art movement that has long been unfairly sidelined. Whether you choose to dip in and out of the writing and wonder, enraptured, at the lush plates, or immerse and enthrall yourself in full by reading all of the fascinating history of these young men who sought to change the stifling art world of the late nineteeth century, it is an essential buy for anyone who values the visual arts.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More colour illustrations, 14 July 2010
This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
I bought this to replace my copy of the previous edition (which was borrowed and not returned). I'm glad it took a while to get round to replacing it as it meant I got this new edition, which has many more of the illustrations in colour than the previous version. From what I have seen of the paintings (and I've seen most of them) the colour in this edition is very accurate- far better than in a lot of exhibition catalogues and books I buy.
An excellent book.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Object, 8 Oct. 2010
This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
This book is beautiful. After seeing the show in Glasgow I decided to buy this in anticipation of it coming to the RA. This book is FAR better than the one offered as companion to the show and a very very beautiful object. It is well written (although I havent finished it yet) and the images are a wonder, and for once large enough to examine details. Highly, higly recommended. My only critism is a request for more larger images, but this is just greed!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Starred Item, 23 Dec. 2010
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This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
I bought this book on the back of watching a TV programme about the Glasgow Boys. I collect books on painting and this one is one of the best I've bought. Packed full of excellent quality illustrations; it's superb quality and unbelievable value for money- it even feels good in your hands; it's got that luxury type cover and is a "perfect" size, not too big and big enough to make the illustrations accessible.

Wonderful book, if you love painting, particularly Scottish painting, get it, it's top quality.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Glasgow Boys, 26 Oct. 2009
By 
Louise Selby (Devon England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
Beautiful book full of beautiful pictures. The quality throughout is excellent, both in choice of paintings and also in the way the book is produced. It was a present for my mother and she is delighted with it. She had seen the previous edition and feels there are extra very worthwhile pictures in this new edition. As well as being a lovely book to look at, it is also very informative, with details of the various artists.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars beautiful book, 23 Feb. 2011
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This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
I HAD WATCHED A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE GROUP OF GLASWEIGAN ARTISTS "THE GLASGOW BOYS".ALTHOUGH I HAD HEARD OF THEM I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT THEIR LIVES AND WORK.THEY EACH HAD THEIR OWN STYLE OF COURSE BUT BROADLY SPEAKING THEY BROKE THE MOULD WHEN THEY STARTED TO PAINT THE WORLD AROUND THEM IN A BOLD AND VIBRANT NEW WAY.I THINK THEY WERE VERY MUCH IN THE MOULD OF THE IMPRESSIONISTS , THOUGH WITH THEIR OWN VERY DIFFERENT SUBJECTS , THE LIFE AROUND THEM IN LATE 19TH CENTURY SCOTLAND.
THIS BOOK HAS PLENTY OF PICTURES OF THEIR WORK,IT TELLS YOU ABOUT THIS SMALL GROUP OF TALENTED MEN AND THE WEALTH OF ART THEY LEFT BEHIND.A LOT OF THEIR WORK HANGS IN THE PURPOSE BUILT KELVINGROVE ART GALLERY IN GLASGOW , WHICH I WOULD LIKE VERY MUCH TO VISIT. I WOULD RECOMMEND THIS BOOK IF YOU ARE THE LEAST BIT INTERESTED IN ART.OF COURSE IF NOT SURE THEN YOU CAN HAVE A LOOK ON THE WEB AND GET A TASTE OF THE SUBJECT FIRST.IF YOU DO AND LIKE WHAT YOU SEE THEN I THINK YOU WILL WANT THIS BOOK.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful overview of an overlooked group, 4 Feb. 2011
This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
The show at the RA was one of those that turns out to be like a first visit to Venice, just much better than you imagined and about the right size too [recent visit to the Tate Gauguin was a bit the reverse - something of a jumble despite its obvious merits]. This was largely because the group were relatively unknown to me and I was then eager to buy the catalogue. This was a little diappointing in contrast with the Billcliffe book on sale at the show [if in Glasgow visit his wonderful gallery or just have a look at the website]. I was overloaded and the full price was more than I felt like affording at the time. In the past an RA assistant recommended not buying their hardback catalogues there and to try looking on Amazon! [ referring to Kuniyoshi, then half price on line but sadly no longer] This proved good advice and a 40% discount was discovered to be on offer.

Purchase and delivery were fast despite the Xmas post and the book is a gem. It is so complete I am tempted to say I might have missed the exhibition if I had read it beforehand. The Glasgow Boys is a wonderful blend of scholarship and superb illustrations, the latter capturing the pale tones of the paintings excellently. I won't duplicate the reviews below except to say that the book really manages to integrate the whole movement but also maintain their distinct differences - quite a challenge in what can be a slightly homogenous group. It's still available at a bargain rate - buy!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful Art, 9 Jan. 2010
By 
R. E. Robb "His Bobness" (Nottingham UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
This is a beautifully presented book on art with an extremely high standard of reproduction, especially when it comes to the paintings. A lot of effort has been put into its production.

This is not a parochial book as the title may suggest. It may be based on a specific group of painters at a specific time but its scope is universal as good art should be, universally appealing.

If you think you hate art, buy this book as your conversion kit. If you are already a convert buy it and give yourself a huge treat.Glasgow Boys
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Glasgow Boys R Billcliffe, 18 Mar. 2011
This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
I bought this book because my brother, himself an artist, showed me his copy. I fell in love with it straight away and ordered it immediately as a present to myself. It is a stunning book, filled with beautiful, evocative pictures and the biographies of the artists who painted them. It is in my opinion, essentially a book for marvelling at their talent, and for learning about who they were and the people,landscape and animals who inspired them so much as artists. I would recommend this book to anyone, for art lovers, a present or simply for oneself, a truly lovely and beautiful book which celebrates these amazingly talented men.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A quite exceptional book, 10 Nov. 2012
By 
Dr R (Norwich, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Glasgow Boys (Hardcover)
The Glasgow Boys, an informal group of some 20 artists who were influenced by Whistler and the Dutch and French Schools, especially Bastien-Lepage, painted their most radical works between 1890-1910 and prepared the way for the modernist style of painting that created such an impact across Europe and North America.

The main figures were William York Macgregor, James Guthrie, Joseph Crawhall, George Henry, Edward Atkinson Hornel, Sir John Lavery and Arthur Melville who painted rural realist scenes, worked out-of-doors and exploited French-inspired tonal and compositional techniques.

Roger Billcliffe is ideally qualified to write this impressive book, an updated version of the original volume of 1985, having been Keeper of Fine Art at Glasgow Art Gallery, Director of the Fine Art Society and, latterly, a gallery owner.

There are 284 illustrations, the great majority being reproduced in excellent colour, and of a size to allow close study. The author has limited consideration of artists to those centred on Guthrie, Macgregor, Lavery and Melville.

The text weaves through chapters addressing `The Second City', `New Friendships', `Gluepots and Teasels', `En Plein Air', `To Pastures New', `Grez and Cockburnspath', `Monaive and Glasgow', `Town and Country', `A Kelvingrove Air', `Galloway Idyll', `Sunlight and Shadows' and `Border Crossings'. The volume ends with an Epilogue, Bibliography and an Index. A map of Scotland, shows the locations of art colonies and main artistic sites.

The author sets the scene by describing Glasgow's position in the late 19th century and describes the various groups of artists working in or near Glasgow in the later decades of the 1800s who rejected contemporary painting, especially the use of the oily, sticky megilp to give `body', and overly sentimental representations of historical events and social issues. Many artists were also excluded by the Scottish art establishment, who refused to allow them entry to The Glasgow Art Club.

The Glasgow Boys' regularly travelled, often in groups, to locations such as Crowland, Stonehaven, Brig o' Turk, Rosneath and Grez to paint together in the open air, "Poppleton, The Artist at Work", 1882, by Guthrie and the "Principal Street in Grez", 1884, by Lavery This resulted in different members of the group painting similar motifs and places. Some of the artists also travelled more widely, Melville to Asia and Africa, "An Egyptian Sower", 1881, Hornel and Henry to Japan, "Dancing Geisha" by Hornel and "An At Home in Japan", by Henry, both from 1894.

The Glasgow Boys exploited colour, light, dappled sunshine and shadows to heighten their realistic portrayals and were ready to exploit new subjects; in the 1880s, artists like Lavery began to depict the middle classes, "Women on a Safety Tricycle" and "A Rally", both 1885. Other artists moved in different directions - some introduced symbolist overtones, "Music", 1888, by David Gauld, others turning to portraiture, Guthrie's "Maggie Hamilton", 1892-93.

The author wears his knowledge and experience lightly, and has written a very clear account of quite a large group of artists and has shown how they related to subsequent generations of artists, Scottish and British, especially the Scottish Colourists. He conveys the enthusiasm and interest that he has in the topic. The illustrations and the text are well integrated.

Clausen, Stanhope Forbes and la Thangue were most receptive to the Glasgow Boys. Billcliffe emphasises that the arrogant attitude of the Royal Scottish Academy spurred on the ambitious young artists. After 1888, when the artists were gradually accepted by the establishment, many left Scotland - the overcoming of these social and academic barriers seeming to have weakened the intensity of their artistic response. The Glasgow Boys drew energy, confidence and resolve from the city and repaid this by creating an international reputation for the quality of the city's artistic activities.

The significance of The Glasgow Boys for Scottish, British and European art could not be better presented. Welcomed unreservedly.
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The Glasgow Boys by Roger Billcliffe (Hardcover - 13 Nov. 2008)
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