Townhead Farm signed and dated 'John Q Pringle/96' (lower left) oil on canvas 23 x 28 cm. (9 1/16 x 11 in.) unframed
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist by Pringle's friend and fellow artist in Glasgow, RL Sutherland. Thence by direct descent
Pringle was a singular talent, whose oils in particular come very rarely to the market. An optician by trade, the income from his shop at Glasgow Cross allowed him the freedom to become an original and avant garde artist.
Pringle attended classes alongside Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Muirhead Bone at Glasgow School of Art until 1896, the year he opened his own shop and painted this remarkable picture of children in a farmyard. He also accepted commissions to paint portrait miniatures of children, including those of Fra Newbery of Glasgow School of Art, and Mackintosh's patron William Davidson (Windyhill, Kilmacolm). His meticulous approach was well-suited to this exacting discipline.
Pringle's earlier work reflected that of the Glasgow Boys, with Bastien-Lepage - inspired 'square brushwork' and an interest in tonal values, but he was much more inclined to depict his urban environment in a way the Boys rarely did. Around 1896 he was working on a series of pictures inspired by his native east end, ranging from the celebrated street document Muslin Street, Bridgeton, to back courts and views of Tollcross, Easterhouse and Parkhead. Although now subsumed by the city boundaries, these were at the time outlying, rustic areas. The given title for this work is 'by family repute' but Townhead is an area of the city, close to Pringle's shop.
He was a keen exhibition-goer in Scotland and London, and would have been aware of the latest developments on the continent, such as Post Impressionism and the Pointillisme of Seurat and Signac. He later had access to the work of French Neo-Impressionists such Le Sidaner, who submitted pictures to the Royal Glasgow Institute 1903-06. Pringle's work developed rapidly and while Old Houses, Parkhead of 1893 is still in the Glasgow Boys idiom, Muslin Street painted three years later is altogether more progressive yet retaining the earthy palette. However the present work has a shimmering surface, with subtle areas and specks of pure colour: blue, green and scarlet over the silvery grey. Pringle's work shows clear knowledge of optical/colour theory, and the form of the stylised tree to the left derives much from Japanese prints.