Joseph Henderson : doyen of Glasgow artists 1832-1908
Melbourne : Macmillan, 2013. Quarto, stiff cards, pp. 160, illustrated.
Joseph Henderson’s contribution to the burgeoning Glasgow art world in the second half of the 19th century and the first years of the 20th was profound. Glasgow became a centre of artistic activity in the 1860s, due in part to the establishment of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts and the artists who formed the Glasgow Art Club of which Henderson was twice president. Opportunities reached a peak with the extravagant Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888 with its six large galleries devoted to art. Then came the famous ‘Glasgow Boys’ who furthered the city’s reputation for art in the 1880s and 90s. Among the artists most regularly reviewed in The Glasgow Herald and The Scotsman was Joseph Henderson whose early works encompassed portraiture and genre painting but who later became renowned for his seascapes and extraordinary rendition of the west coast of Scotland. These feature prominently in this richly coloured illustrated book which brings to life what Henderson called his ‘bit of the Ayrshire Coast’. And yet today, knowledge of his contribution requires renewal. Perhaps overshadowed by his son-in-law, the better known William McTaggart, and vying for recognition with his three artist sons, one of whom became Director of the Glasgow School of Art, few remember that Henderson had many paintings hung at the Royal Academy in London and in 1896 was declared by his colleagues to be ‘the doyen of Glasgow artists’. On the occasion of his Jubilee (in 1901) members of the Glasgow Art Club reiterated this praise. ‘Anthony Woodd, whose Edinburgh gallery specialises in the work of the Hendersons (father and sons), has written, “The seascape paintings of Joseph Henderson have a quintessentially Scottish flavour,…always fresh and executed with swift, broken brushwork, the feeling conveyed is invariably one of spontaneity and an instantly appealing sense of the artist’s oneness with nature.”