Catalogue entry

T03446 THE WASH 1882–3

Oil on canvas 37 × 28 15/16 (940 × 735)
Inscribed ‘J. Guthrie |-83-’ b.l.
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1982
Prov: The artist's cousin Frederick (later Sir Frederick) Gardiner, Glasgow; on his death in 1937 given by his widow either to his sister Eliza Jane Troup or to the latter's son William Annandale Troup; bequeathed by the latter in 1966 to his own son Judge A. Troup, from whom bt by the Tate Gallery through the Fine Art Society Ltd
Exh: Guthrie and the Scottish Realists, Fine Art Society Ltd, Glasgow, November–December 1981, London, December 1981–January 1982 (9, repr.)
Lit: Sir James Caw, Sir James Guthrie, 1932, pp.18, 213; Roger Billcliffe, The Glasgow Boys, 1985, pp.56–7, pl.46

Guthrie and two other Glasgow artists, E.A. Walton and Joseph Crawhall, spent the summer of 1882 painting at Crowland in Lincolnshire. Roger Billcliffe suggests in his recent book that they may have chosen this part of the country because it allowed them to concentrate on their rustic figure subjects without the distraction of grand scenery and the presence of other artists and because it offered a more consistent light than Scotland, where they had painted together in previous years.

Guthrie presumably began ‘The Wash’ at Crowland but did not finish and date it until the following winter when he was working in the studio he had borrowed at Helensburgh from the amateur artist John G. Whyte. Billcliffe reasonably argues that most of it was painted during the early part of Guthrie's stay at Crowland. It shares the sombre tonality of ‘A Funeral Service in the Highlands’ (Glasgow Art Gallery), painted in 1881–2, rather than the brighter palette of Guthrie's other Crowland paintings, for example the aptly named ‘To Pastures New’ (1882–3, Aberdeen Art Gallery). The change in Guthrie's colour and also in his handling may be explained, Billcliffe suggests, by his discovery of the work of Bastien-Lepage during a visit to London from Lincolnshire that summer. The visit is not documented but Guthrie would almost certainly have gone down to see his own ‘Funeral Service’ hanging in that year's Royal Academy exhibition. Four of Bastien-Lepage's paintings were on view in London and Guthrie would also have seen works by British artists who had already come under the spell of this remarkably influential Frenchman: Stanhope Forbes's ‘A Street in Brittany’ (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), for example, was on view at the RA.

‘The Wash’ originally belonged to Guthrie's cousin Frederick Gardiner, who with his brothers James and William had founded a successful shipping company. During the 1880s they were major patrons of Guthrie and other Glasgow artists.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986