Rowans signed and dated 'George Henry/1895' (lower right) oil on canvas 91.5 x 69 cm. (36 x 27 1/2 in.)
EXHIBITED: Edinburgh, Royal Scottish Academy, 1896, cat no.327
The Glasgow Boys swiftly revolutionised Scottish painting and, in the process, provided a direct conduit between contemporary Continental advances and British Art. Theirs was an original, pioneering vision which did not resort to imitation or pastiche, and of the group George Henry was the most enigmatic figure. His early years were shrouded in mystery, and he studied in Glasgow before beginning to exhibit in the early 1880's. An early alliance with EA Hornel saw them working together in Kirkcudbright, much inspired by the rich seam of Galloway folklore. Rowans sees the mature Henry, not long back from Japan, recalling his collaborations with Hornel on such as The Druids - Bringing Home the Mistletoe (Glasgow Museums). The rich, warm colour emphasises the decorative appeal of the deliberately flattened perspective, while the cropped blue ellipses to the right edge are quite radical design components and call to mind the winding burn in his celebrated Galloway Landscape. The rowan tree is significant in Scottish folklore. Sometimes called the 'Traveller's Tree', it was thought to ensure one never became lost en route. Rowans were planted by doors or gates to ward off witches, while druids' staffs were also made from rowan wood.