Anatomy of a painting – The Druids – Bringing in the Mistletoe

Last week Maria and I visited the Kelvingrove Museum and Gallery in Glasgow where we spent the entire day exploring the many different galleries and exhibits. One room particularly caught us by surprise – this was dedicated to The Glasgow Boys, a loose-knit group of Glasgow-based artists who reached a creative peak in the 1880s and 1890s.

Photo: Maria Moraes Robinson

Photo: Maria Moraes Robinson

One composition not only caught my attention by impacted in such a manner that I wanted to share it with you – The Druids – Bringing in the Mistletoe which was jointly pained by George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel in 1890. I wanted to show you the photo with me in it first for you to appreciate the size, and then show you the photo in its entirety.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

This was a hugely innovative and almost shocking piece of art for its era, ahead of its time not only due to the flattened perspective but particularly for the daring and revolutionary use of gold leaf which wowed spectators across Europe, especially in Germany where it was exhibited in Munich and declared the most radical painting of its era.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

For me I could easily understand the response of those who viewed the painting, since there is a monumental spirituality in its experience – the expression in the druids, the moon-like mound, and the bright colours which have almost never been used to depict druids in this manner.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

The mistletoe, a plant venerated by druids, can be seen on the heads of the white wild cattle. Henry and Hornel went to great lengths to ensure that this particular ancient breed would have been present in the era of the druids, and they studied the skulls of cattle to ensure as good a likeness as possible.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

As I mentioned in my previous series on Salvador Dali, there is something about being up close against the brush-strokes of a great painting that places you in the presence of the artist as no reproduction possibly could. For this I am extremely grateful in having been able to visit this exceptional collection in person.

Photo: Simon Robinson

Photo: Simon Robinson

I really cannot praise the Kelvingrove enough. Full praise warrants an article in itself, but for now I thought you would like to see this amazing painting which stunned and amazed me.

6 responses to “Anatomy of a painting – The Druids – Bringing in the Mistletoe

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