A Highland Funeral
By Sir James Guthrie

A Highland Funeral
By Sir James Guthrie
In the Glasgow Art Gallery

It is always interesting to study the early work of popular artists, to observe the budding talent as well as the tendencies which afterwards develop into a mature and characteristic style. The "Highland Funeral" contains abundant evidence of the young painter's great gifts, which in after years were to raise him to the pre-eminent position in Scottish art. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1882, when he was but twenty-three years of age, and afterwards appeared in the Glasgow Institute, where it found a purchaser in the late Dr. Forbes white. It was bequeathed to the Glasgow Corporation by Sir James Gardiner, a cousin of the artist in 1903, the year after Sir James Guthrie was unanimously elected President of the Royal Scottish Academy. Considered as the work of a mere youth, the painting is a remarkable effort. The psychological insight it displays, the poignant sorrow which it so well expresses, and the sincerity and force with which it is painted, all combine to make it a noteworthy performance. Save in its portraiture of individuals and the delineation of types, it does not suggest the power of the artist's later work except in its freedom from unessential trivialities. Viewed on its own merits, however, the picture has a claim on the spectators' attention apart from being an example of precocity. Originally intended for the legal profession, Guthrie had no systematic training in art. He left Glasgow in 1879 to study in Paris, but he remained in London on the advice of John Pettie, in whose studio in St. John's Wood he observed the craft of picture-making and received much valuable counsel. Speedy justification followed his determination to adopt Art as a career. Nine years after he journeyed to London he was elected an Associate of the Scottish Academy, becoming a full member five years later, and President nine years after that.

From the book "Famous Paintings" printed in 1913.

Large files of this public domain print are available at Stock Photos at Songs of Praise
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Online "Name the Painting"

Sir James Guthrie Biography

Sir James Guthrie
at Wikipedia

Sir James Guthrie
Tate Gallery

by Guthrie

Page Comments

Most Recent Comments ( See more comments on this page )
The bearded man next to the young boy is Charles Stevenson. It is my understanding the funeral itself was fictional but the location real (and still in existence) and some of the characters based on real people - like Stevenson.
Claire Robert
Very educating story, saved your site for hopes to read more! <a href="www.overstockart.com">panting artist</a>
On reflection and having obtained a print of the painting I think the mourner is not a lady but most probably her only elder sibling, her brother James, who would have been 9 years old at the time. How sad, it looks as though her mother already had 2 more very young children, the youngest being born only 12 days before the drowning.
David Hornsby
From what I can make of the genealogical records there was a McGowan family living at Brig 0 Michael in 1881. The daughter Mary had married a John McCall in 1871 and they had a daughter Agnes born in April 1874 and she and her husband were living with her parents. There is then a record of the death of Annie McCall aged 7, daughter of John and Mary at Bridge of Michael on 9th October1881. The cause of death is not recorded. This coincides with the time the Glasgow boys were said to have stayed there. I suspect the little girl was known as Annie as they were all living with the grandparents McGowan and the Grandmother was also named Agnes. Both her father and grandfather were shepherds and I notice the sheepdog in the painting too. From what I can see there is a lady mourner by the coffin although I have read elsewhere that the funeral was an all male gathering.
David Hornsby
I remember looking at this painting when I was a child with my dad. We just gazed at it and both of us really took in the painting, the expressions on the faces, particularly what we thought (near the coffin) was the father and son perhaps? Btw, my dad had a sister, Cathy who I never met and she had a daughter called (well hope I'm remembering correctly, from my late mum telling me she had been speaking to someone at a family funeral, called) Zena? :-)
Barbara Rose
can someone please tell me who died and where in the painting by guthrie in highland funeral. It does not give story it only talks about himself, who was the boy and where was he
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Sir James Guthrie

A Highland Funeral

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Famous Paintings