Lot 20: ROBERT MCGREGOR R.S.A. (SCOTTISH 1847-1922) GATHERING MUSSELS 61cm x 101.5cm (24in x 40in)
December 8, 2016
Edinburgh, United KingdomLive Auction
ROBERT MCGREGOR R.S.A. (SCOTTISH 1847-1922)
Signed and dated 1919, oil on canvas
61cm x 101.5cm (24in x 40in)
Re-lined - nothing shows under U.V light - possible small hole repaired 1" above right of bottom left hand fish basket - otherwise under natural light appears in largely good condition
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Exhibited: The Fine Art Society 1977
Note: Robert McGregor is renowned for his pioneering approach in the genre of work scenes of rural life. The genre acquired a dramatic popularity in France, where it was represented by Gustave Courbet and Jules Bastien-Lepage, however it hadn''t reached Britain until the late 1870s. McGregor''s simple pastorals are notable for a unique combination of the French influences on the one hand, and the artist''s loyalty to the old traditions of the Scottish painting on the other. Among his most prominent works are The Knife-Grinder (1878), now in the McManus Museum, Dundee, and Gathering Stones (1879) in the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum.
McGregor had no formal art training until his relocation to Edinburgh, where he later attended the Royal Scottish Academy, yet he is believed to have received some artistic instruction from a Frenchman while still in Yorkshire. Once at the R.S.A., McGregor made rapid progress, getting elected an associate in 1882. He became a full R.S.A. member seven years later.
Although McGregor never worked in a foreign atelier, his style was influenced by continental painters, including Courbet and Millet. Unlike other Scottish painters, the majority of whom remained loyal to a local palette, in his colourist approach McGregor maintained a distinctively French use of the grey scale, with a light effect similar to that seen in black and white photography.
Having adopted an artistic approach derived from the works of Courbet, McGregor frequently reduced the foreground of his paintings in order to increase a sense of the bulkiness of the peasants'' figures. A brilliant example of such composition is the present canvas depicting a young woman with a basket. The scene drawn from everyday life is executed in a warm palette, where thicker strokes of the pastel-blue sky in the top left corner are balanced with the deep-blue colour of the water and the girl''s jacket. McGregor''s use of heavier brushwork is softened by the elaborate lacework of the girl''s headscarf.
Gathering Mussels belongs to the eponymous series of works depicting peasants gathering clams in the setting of a distinctively Scottish coastal landscape. This large-scale work, executed in 1919, demonstrates the artist''s use of grey tonality to create the effect of sunless weather and gives the painting a diffused silvery glow. Therefore, this later work represents one of the best examples of the artist''s engagement with French painting techniques in the depiction of Scottish countryside settings.