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Margaret Helen Sowerby (known as Helen Sowerby)

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Margaret Helen Sowerby (known as Helen Sowerby) 1882

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
This portrait of 1882 is believed to be one of Guthrie’s first portrait commissions. It reveals his debt to James McNeill Whistler’s portraits from the 1870s that he had recently seen on display at the Grosvenor Gallery in London, particularly in the placement of the figure in the canvas and the use of an unidentified patterned background. His encounter with Whistler’s work was to have a lasting effect on Guthrie’s painting style. This portrait also reflects the contemporary fascination with Japanese prints. Margaret Helen Sowerby was the eldest daughter of J G Sowerby, Chairman of Sowerby’s Ellison Glassworks on Tyneside, the world’s largest producer of pressed glassware. It seems that Guthrie was introduced to Sowerby by his friend and fellow ‘Glasgow Boy’ Joseph Crawhall.

Glossary Open


When an individual or organisation employs an artist to execute a particular project, the process and the resulting work are termed a ‘commission’.

Glasgow Boys

A loose grouping of painters working in Glasgow in the late 19th century. Though there was no overall style or formal membership, they did exhibit together and shared an interest in rural scenes. Artists included John Lavery, Joseph Crawhall and James Guthrie.

Commission, Glasgow Boys


  • Acc. No. NG 2700
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Size 161.00 x 61.20 cm (framed: 191.80 x 92.30 x 8.50 cm)
  • Credit Purchased by Private Treaty Sale with the aid of the Art Fund, 1999