A Painter’s Commemoration at Whithorn

The windows flanking the pulpit of St Ninian’s Church of Scotland, in Whithorn are by Alexander Kerr. To the left of the pulpit is the Good Shepherd, while St Ninian is depicted on the right. The stained-glass was commissioned by Jane Jenkins and the Good Shepherd window carries the inscription, “To The Glory of God These windows are Gifted by Jane Weir Jenkins, Widow of Ross Townsend Jenkins and Daughter of Gemmell Hutchison R.S.A.” (Royal Scottish Academy)

It appears that Gemmell Hutchison never painted in the Machars of Galloway. Born and trained in Edinburgh, Gemmell Hutchison (1855-1936) began his working life in Edinburgh as a seal engraver but realising his talents lay in painting, he enrolled at the Board of Manufacturers School of Art. Thereafter he became a prolific exhibitor and the quality of his work was recognised by his election to numerous royal art societies. He specialised in depicting children in domestic and sea shore scenes and particularly in the latter was strongly influenced by the painter William McTaggart (1835-1910). Indeed, he often painted in the same costal areas of Macrihanish and Carnoustie as McTaggart. His first marine subject matter was, however, paintings of the harbours along the Forth with fishing boats with their distinct brown sails. In this he was clearly influenced by the work of his Dutch contemporaries in particular The Hague School.* Works by these artists were being keenly collected throughout Scotland. So influenced was he by this group that Hutchison was at the time known as the ‘Scottish Israles’ after the leader of the Dutch group. Although he was also known for his soft hues in landscapes, with his entry to the Royal Scottish Academy, his paintings illustrated his capacity to capture movement and transient light. Hucheson is now widely collected and at a recent sale of one of his paintings at Sotheby’s, it fetched over £100,000.

In 1957, the stained-glass artist Alexander Kerr also created the windows flanking the pulpit to the Old Parish Church in Church Street, Stranraer. This building’s future in now in doubt following the move of the Church of Scotland congregation.

*Three brothers were members of the Hague School of painters; Jacob, Willem and Matthijs Maris. These are the uncles the painter Josephine Broekhuizen who contributed several paintings, including the large entrance mural, to the Visitor Centre in Whithorn.

First Published September 2009

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