Lot 27: WILLIAM KENNEDY (SCOTTISH 1859-1918) OLD PIER, OBAN 34cm x 51cm (13.5in x 20in)
December 8, 2016
Edinburgh, United KingdomLive Auction
WILLIAM KENNEDY (SCOTTISH 1859-1918)
OLD PIER, OBAN
Signed, inscribed and dated 1885, watercolour
34cm x 51cm (13.5in x 20in)
Slight time fading - some staining to central section, small 2.5cm tear to top edge right of centre, slight rippling
Under the Conditions of Sale applicable to the sale of the lot, buyers must satisfy themselves as to each and every aspect of the quality of the lot, including (without limitation) its authorship, attribution, condition, provenance, authenticity, age, suitability and origin. Lots are sold on an ''as is'' basis but the actual condition of the lot may not be as good as indicated by its outward appearance. In particular parts may have been replaced or renewed and lots may not be authentic or of satisfactory quality.
Any statement in relation to the lot is merely an expression of opinion of the seller or Lyon & Turnbull and should not be relied upon as an inducement to bid on the lot. Lots are available for inspection prior to the sale and you are strongly advised to examine any lot in which you are interested prior to the sale. Our condition report has not been prepared by a professional conservator, restorer or engineer.
Note: Though the majority of their best known works were executed in oils, one of the most interesting and under-explored threads which connect the Glasgow Boys and their practice is their rare facility with the medium of watercolour. In this sale we are lucky to be able to present fine examples by several of the key protagonists of the group, allowing us the opportunity to explore why watercolour suited the artistic developments they sought to make.
It could be argued that the trait which most strongly characterised this loosely interlinked group of young artists was a collective desire to move away from the aesthetic of the presiding and establishment-approved art which dominated the Scottish institutions of the time. Dark, staid oils which favoured historical and sentimental narrative subject matter over realism and naturalism were the order of the day. The Boys dismissively referred to these laboured, traditional painters as The Glue Pots. In retaliation, they left the dimly lit confines of their studios to seek out the purest light they could find in Scotland; whether along coast of East Lothian or in the villages to the west in Dumfriesshire, adopting the plein air techniques of the French Barbizon School whom they all admired.
Like the French Realists and Naturalists before them, they sought to elevate rural subject matter and further, to emphasise a focus on technique over narrative. Watercolour is a notoriously tricky medium which demands precision and speed but the Boys found it well-suited to their aims and skillsets. It was perfect for exploring atmospheric effects and fleeting movement. As well as mastering sophisticated tonal harmonies, most of the Boys were skilled draughtsmen and this is highly apparent in the deceptively technical compositional constructions of their watercolours. This is perhaps most obvious in William Kennedy''s Oban Harbour which demonstrates a mastery of perspective, in addition to his celebrated handling of chiaroscuro.
We know that the Boys themselves valued their watercolours highly and as major aspects of their oeuvre - exhibiting them prominently and asking strong prices. While some critics have argued that the Boys'' oils are diminished by the obvious nature of the French influences they adopted, their use of and mastery of watercolour is truly distinct to their movement and remains shamefully under-documented.