Sir James Guthrie was a Scottish painter, best known in his own lifetime for his portraiture, although today more generally regarded as a painter of Scottish Realism.

Guthrie was born in Greenock, the youngest son of the Reverend John Guthrie, a minister of the Evangelical Union church, and Anne Orr. He originally enrolled at Glasgow University to study law, but abandoned this in favor of painting in 1877. Unlike many of his contemporaries he did not study in Paris, being mostly self-taught,although he was mentored for a short time by James Drummond in Glasgow and then John Pettie in London.

He lived most of his life in the Scottish Borders, where he painted some of his most important works, including A Hind’s Daughter(1883), and Schoolmates. He was strongly influenced by the French Realists, especially Jules Bastien-Lepage, and was associated with the Glasgow Boys.

He was elected an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1888, and a full member in 1892. In 1902 he succeeded Sir George Reid as RSA president in 1902, and he was knighted the following year. In 1920 the King of Belgium conferred Guthrie with the Cross of Commander of the Order of the Crown. A member of Glasgow Art Club Guthrie exhibited often at the club’s annual exhibitions.

In 1919, Guthrie was commissioned by South African financier Sir Abraham Bailey, 1st Baronet to paint a group portrait of 17 politicians and statesmen of Britain and its allies who held office during the First World War. The painting, Statesmen of World War I, was completed in 1930, shortly before Guthrie’s death. The painting was donated to the National Portrait Gallery, London. Guthrie’s 17 preparatory oil studies were donated to Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Guthrie died in the house where he retired, in Rhu, Dunbartonshire in 1930.


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