January 1922: “Art as a Hobby” – “Working-Class Exhibition in Glasgow” – Scottish Socialist Art Exhibition, in the Kay Public School

An article on page four of The Glasgow Herald, on Thursday the 5th of January, 1922, reads:







The Socialist movement in Glasgow has helped to cultivate a taste for good music,

particularly choral singing, among a wider circle of workers than those who are

adherents to its political tenets. This quest for culture is now being extended to the

realm of pictorial art through the agency of a ‘Scottish Socialist Art Exhibition,’ which

will be formally opened to-day in the Kay Public School, situated at the junction of

Renfrew Street and Renfield Street, Glasgow. The exhibition is novel in many respects.

It really cannot bear criticism in the ordinary sense. There has been no attempt, by a

process of selection, to make the exhibition conform to any standard. This anarchy may

be pardonable in the initial venture, but the selective principle will have to be adopted

in future if the promoters, of whom Mr W. Martin Haddow is president, hope to attract the

best class of work and to stimulate the spirit of emulation.


Every entry received—and they number, including the entries in the children’s section,

between 200 and 300—has been allotted space. The result is a heterogeneous collection of

effort, ranging from the most crude attempts in draughtsmanship and colour to pictures

which show real merit and promise. Among the latter are a group of landscapes in water-

colour by Mr Guthrie, Larkhall, a miner, who has already attained to the distinction of

having a one-man show of his work. His compositions are pleasing, his colouring is fresh

and clean, and the general impression suggests a facile skill with the brush. Mr R. Maclaurin,

whose name is associated with the smokeless fuel invention that has received publicity of

late, is another exhibitor of meritorious work in water-colours. These are more numerous

than the oils, which represent a medium which few of the working classes who adopt art as a

hobby appear to find congenial. Many of the examples which show promise have the common

fault of the beginner. There is lack of skill in the treatment of foreground details. Not sure of

themselves, practically all of the exhibitors have adhered closely to convention. Impressionist

work is entirely absent. The nearest approach is a view of a fishing harbour by C. K. Lamb, who,

it is stated, is a Fifeshire miner. While crude and revealing a marked lack of technique, it is

perhaps the most suggestive exhibit displayed.


It was originally intended to confine the exhibition to posters and cartoons devoted to the

propaganda of the movement, but it was realised that there were many members of the working

classes who dabble in art in their spare time, and for whom there is no opportunity to exhibit their

work alongside that of other amateurs. For that reason it was decided to extend the scope of the

exhibition. From the standpoint of the general visitor this decision was a happy one. The cartoon

and poster section is in many respects the least satisfactory. Most of the subjects are almost barren

of humour. Many exhibitors appear to be obsessed to an almost morbid degree with the evils of

capitalism, and their work is depressing. The Socialist choirs, after all, have not made their

reputations by an absurd attachment to ‘The Red Flag’ and other revolutionary airs. They have left

these to the milkboy and to the football brake clubs. The cartoon and the poster, of course, are

designed for propaganda purposes. But skulls and cross-bones are hardly subjects that make general

appeal. Exhibitors in this section will require to broaden their appeal by cultivating the saving grace

of humour. In this section Charles Boyle and Mr Hervey are showing works exhibiting a matured skill.


The adjudicators are Mr John Henderson, Mr J. Grigor, H.M.L., Mr Joseph Vaughan, and Mr Thomas

Johnstone. Their task includes the judging of the competition in posters and cartoons, and comment of

a helpful nature on the other sections. The exhibition will be open to the public this afternoon and again





George Fairfull-Smith, November 2022.