A rare and significant painting by one of the key Scottish women artists set to feature in the upcoming exhibition Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885-1965 has been acquired by the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Mother and Child by Norah Neilson Gray (1882-1931) is one of only about 20 of the Glasgow artists works to appear at public auction in the last 25 years, and will be the very first of her works to enter the Gallerys collection.
Celebrated during her lifetime for her portraiture, Gray completed Mother and Child in the early 1920s.This distinctive oil painting is an important example of her work and is expected to be a highlight of the upcoming exhibition.
Depicting a mother and child in a tender embrace, Grays treatment of this traditional subject is radical: a palette limited to shades of grey and burnished gold is combined with a flattening of volume and graphic outlining of form, which together create an unexpectedly dramatic effect which verges on the abstract.
Mother and Child will be shown for the first time since its acquisition as part of Modern Scottish Women, an exhibition set to chart and celebrate the contribution women artists made between 1885 and 1965.
It will be displayed alongside another of Grays works, Hôpital Auxiliare dArmée 301 Abbaye de Royaumont, 1918, which will be lent by Argyll and Bute Council. Gray volunteered in this Scottish Womens hospital, founded by the Scottish doctor Elsie Inglis in 1914 as part of the war effort, for several months during 1918.
A key artist in Modern Scottish Women, Norah Neilson Gray (1882‑1931) was born in Helensburgh and trained at Glasgow School of Art from 1901 until 1906, where she later taught fashion design and drawing.
Establishing her professional practice in Glasgow where she had a studio in Bath Street, Gray became celebrated for her portraiture, hosting her first solo exhibition in the city in 1910. Four years later she was elected a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Watercolour (RSW).
In 1921 Gray became the first woman to be elected to the hanging committee of the Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts (RGI), later having a solo exhibition at Gieves Gallery in London in 1926.
She exhibited regularly at the RGI, the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) and in the Paris Salons, where she was awarded a bronze medal in 1921 and a silver medal in 1923. An international exhibiting career also included showing her work in Nice, Brussels, Liège, Vienna, Chicago and Canada. Norah Neilson Gray died in 1931 at the age of 48.
Opening on Saturday 7 November, the revelatory exhibition Modern Scottish Women will include over 90 works from both private and public collections, including that of the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS). It will explore the ebb and flow of opportunities for Scottish women artists to train and practise during this period, as well as their network of relationships throughout the Scottish art world, whether familial, social or professional.
Alice Strang, Senior Curator of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, said: Neilson Gray was tremendously successful during her lifetime, but is little known now, partly because most of her work was portrait commissions which remain in private collections. We were therefore thrilled when the opportunity arose to acquire Mother and Child for the national collection, and we cant wait for visitors to the Modern Scottish Women exhibition to have the chance to see it.