Portrait of James Guthrie

Artist: Hunter, Kenneth [Kenny], RSA · b. 1962

Hunter’s original concept was to make a work based on the Hind's Daughter from Guthrie’s famous oil of that title in the National Galleries of Scotland collections. However, the more he read and learnt about Guthrie the more fascinated Hunter became by Guthrie’s complex character and many talents. Guthrie was filled with great self-doubt both in his abilities as a painter – destroying much of his output – and also as an administrator. This has resulted in the four heads, all facing different directions and coloured differently.

Hunter's original proposal for commemorating Guthrie's term as President of the Royal Scottish Academy was as follows;
"Cockburnspath Revisited
Kenny Hunter March 2016
Guthrie was the leading member of the Glasgow Boys, a highly successful group of artists who were inspired by French realist painting whilst challenging the conservative and Edinburgh-run Royal Scottish Academy. Like so many rebels before and after him, Guthrie in time became a pillar of the establishment himself; an orthodox society portrait painter and the President of the Academy he had earlier confronted.
He lived most of his life in the Scottish Borders, most notably in Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, where he painted arguably his most important work, A Hind's Daughter (1883),
This painting of a farm girl looking out at the viewer from the middle of a cabbage field, was in its modest way revolutionary. At a time when Scottish art was dominated by heroic Highland images, simply showing such a downbeat Lowland scene felt radical. The use of square brushstrokes hints at a Cezanne-like deconstruction of form, while the matter of factness of the girl's expression and the way the background moves out of focus appear to owe something to photography. However when it came to subject matter, the founding ruralist impulse of the Glasgow Boys made them far from radical. Like the novels of Waiter Scott 50 years before, they were "valedictory realists" (the phrase is Tom Nairn's) whose pictures said farewell to a disappearing way of life in wake of industrial expansion.
It is my intention to revisit this painting as a dialogue that opens up its contradictions, narrative and history whilst celebrating James Guthrie's legacy.
To begin this process I would like to collaborate with the Royal Scottish Academy, The National Galleries of Scotland and the writer Or Tom Normand to organize an event at the Cockburnspath Village Hall. This would be based around the return of the painting 'The Hinds Daughter' to Cockburnspath for the event and a talk on Guthrie from Tom Normand followed by a dialogue with the community about the painting, what it represents and what relevance it has for the contemporary population?
This dialogue will provide a departure point for my development of a sculpture that will examine and measure our relationship to this iconic painting and Scotland's social history."

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