Robert Gemmell Hutchison, RSA RBA ROI RSW (British, 1855-1936)
Sea Gulls and Sapphire Seas signed 'GEMMELL-HUTCHISON' (lower left) oil on canvas 106 x 166 cm. (41 3/4 x 65 3/8 in.)
PROVENANCE: Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, acquired directly from the artist in 1912 for £150.
EXHIBITED: Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, Sea Gulls and the Sapphire Seas, 1909, catalogue no. 494 Mere Hall Summer Exhibition, 1912 Liverpool, Williamson Art Gallery, 1928
Hutchison is one of the most consistently popular Scottish artists, and Sea Gulls and Sapphire Seas has a universal and timeless appeal, representing the artist at the peak of his powers and displaying an ambition and confidence which may be unsurpassed in his oeuvre.
The style is pure 'British Impressionism', with the artist displaying consummate command of his medium and revelling in light effects and atmosphere. The impasto is rich and yet the handling is free and spontaneous, despite the imposing dimensions of the canvas.
Coastal views are most effective on a large scale, an inspiration Hutchison would have drawn from William McTaggart, and the younger artist was instructed by him at the Trustees' Academy in 1877 alongside notable contemporaries such as Arthur Melville and Patrick William Adam. Hutchison loved to paint girls on the shore and often called on his daughters and their friends, whether he was working in East Lothian, Carnoustie or Berwickshire. Many pictures feature the same models and poses, and this work is a synthesis of his best compositions.
Hutchison emerged from the 'Scott Lauder' tradition of genre and rustic naturalism, and although a contemporary of the elder members of the Glasgow School his early work was not progressive. He painted interiors with a tendency towards pathos, and had much in common with the Hague School. However, after 1900 he achieves a distinctive niche with his light, airy coastal views, and a Gold Medal awarded at the Paris Salon for Bairnies Cuddle Doon confirms that his style had a resonance beyond Scotland.