Guthrie became one of the leading painters in the group of artists called the Glasgow Boys. His early works of rural subjects painted with broad square brush strokes show the strong influence of French painters such as Bastien-Lepage. Guthrie was born in Greenock and trained as a lawyer before turning to art. After brief but stimulating periods in London and Paris, he committed himself to painting directly from nature in Scotland. Guthrie also experimented with pastel drawings and established a reputation as a successful portrait painter. He became president of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1902 and was knighted the following year.