Our new exhibition 'Scottish Portraits 1700-1950' is on now until 21 October. View available works and a link to the online catalogue on our website - link in profile.
James Cowie RSA (1886-1956)
'A Bellshill schoolgirl'
oil on linen laid on canvas · 11 x 9 inches
Provenance: Cyril Gerber Fine Art, March 1988
After graduating, Cowie was appointed art master at Bellshill Academy. War intervened, during which time Cowie, a conscientious objector, spent two years in the Pioneer Corps before resuming his post at Bellshill in 1918. Just ten miles east of Glasgow it was a far cry from the cosmopolitan art school life. In the bleak and industrial landscape of Lanarkshire, Cowie found his subject. His pupils became his source material and the classroom his studio. For many artists, teaching can interrupt or even halt a career, but Cowie was able to rationalise it.
In a letter to his elder daughter, Ruth, he offered some revealing advice as a teacher, ‘make your job serve its purpose of providing the necessary means and go on expanding you inner life as hard as you can. From this period came some of his most accomplished and striking images. Self-restraint and alienated and distracted stares define may of his works of school girls as well as the transitional nature of adolescence.
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