St Agnes

David Gauld

  • Artist

    David Gauld

  • Date

    c. 1890

  • Medium

    Oil on paper

  • Object number


  • Dimensions unframed

    51.5 × 41.5 cm

  • Dimensions framed

    74.5 × 63.5 × 6 cm


David Gauld RSA, 1865-1936

Born in Glasgow, Gauld began his career as a lithographer and in the late 1880s made a reputation for himself with illustrations to stories published in the Glasgow Weekly Citizen. He became involved with the design and manufacture of stained-glass panels in Glasgow and was to receive both church and domestic commissions, most notably for St. Andrew's Church in Buenos Aires. Gauld translated some of the new imagery he had devised for his panels into designs for canvas and, perhaps more importantly, transferred the colours and glass-painting techniques to his new easel paintings. This can clearly be seen in Colour Sketch (St Agnes) which relates to his painting of 1890 St Agnes (National Gallery of Scotland), an extraordinary anticipation of Art Nouveau. 

Between 1882 and 1885, and again in 1889, Gauld attended Glasgow School of Art, and afterwards painted in France. From 1885 he exhibited regularly in Scotland and at the Vienna Secession in the 1890s. He worked on the edge of the Glasgow School as he was more interested in the decorative possibilities of a painting then in making any social comment. Gauld's influences included Burne-Jones, whose work was regularly exhibited at the Glasgow Institute in the 1880s. He was attracted to the work of George Henry and E.A. Hornel, who shared a similar interest in the decorative aspects of composition, and their work was a strong influence on Gauld, who was in turn to influence Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Beginning in 1892, Mackintosh produced a series of watercolours that clearly draw on Gauld's interpretation of Pre-Raphaelite imagery. The two became close friends, and mackintosh designed a suite of bedroom furniture for Gauld after he married in 1893.

Around 1895 Gauld abandoned symbolism and in successive years made trips to Grez-sur-Loing, Normandy and Brittany. He became noted as a painter of landscape and cattle, and design and colour remained an important part of his work. It was the simplicity of design in his paintings of French villages that led to his inclusion in many of the exhibitions of the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, along with the work of his fellow Glasgow School painter E.A. Walton.