Alexander Lightbody (1855-1905)
My Great Grandfather Alexander Lightbody made his living from painting. His studio was in Carluke in Larnarkshire, Scotland. He lived in Braidwood, Carluke until the family moved to Caird Drive in the West End/Partick area of Glasgow around 1900. He founded the Lanark Art Club in 1894. He exhibited in the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool in 1891 among many other places.
He created many wonderful scenes of the Lanarkshire countryside. Here is a photograph of a scene of a haywane which he painted in oils.
It is wonderful to see this snippet of life around the turn of the century, with Clydesdale horses working in Lanarkshire, the source of the River Clyde.
Alexander Lightbody was painting at a time when Impressionist art had taken off and Scotland was famous for two groups of painters - the Colourists and also a group called The Glasgow Boys. Alexander's paintings are very much like these artist's paintings and especially when you see scenes of rural life such as the one above. Also the strong brush strokes and impressionistic way he paints are very contemporary to those times. For more information about The Glasgow Boys please see my page : http://www.jenniferwilsonart.co.uk/HistoryofAnimalArt/glasgowboys.html
There is also a book/catalogue about the Glasgow Boys which can be read online by clicking here.
Alexander Lightbody exhibited a single oil painting at the 1891 Liverpool Autumn Exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery. It was number 266 in the exhibition catalogue, was entitled "Among the Flowers", and was priced at £16 (sixteen pounds sterling). The catalogue gives the artist's address as Braidwood, Carluke, North Britain (i.e. Scotland). (My thanks to Joseph Sharples, Asst. Curator of Fine Art. for this information). Whistler and Melville were jurors at this exhibition so at least we know that Alexander Lightbody's paintings were viewed by at least one if not two of the famous "Glasgow Boys" painters. (This information also appears in the Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, compiled by J.Johnson & A Greutzner)
We also know that one of the descendants of Alexander Lightbody's son inherited two paintings - one by the Glasgow Boy Alexander Mann R. O. I. (1853-1908) and the other by a Dean at Glasgow School of Art and Alexander Coutts Fraser (1886-1939). So, whether this might indicate he knew these painters we cant really tell unless further information comes to light.
From trying to gather together snippets of family history, we believe Alexander Lightbody possibly had only one arm and it is also possible that this happened in a mining accident as one of his paintings depicts an accident in a coal mine. He appears on his 1877 marriage certificate as a coalminer with usual residence as Boghead. He perhaps became an artist after this accident.
I would be very interested to hear from anyone who can add to this history or who can send me a copy of his paintings. Unfortunately we believe he just initialled his paintings so it is therefore pretty hard to track them down. I also know that he painted a picture of fruit growers and a street scene with half a dozen houses from a village called Dillarburn outside Lesmahagow.
Here are some more of his paintings :
Oil Painting of a boat at sunset
Oil Painting, possibly of the Falls of Clyde
A Silver Birch Tree
Here is a picture of his card with the address of his artist's studio in Carluke. (Card courtesy of my cousin Alexander (Sandy) Lightbody ! :
Some of Alex Lightbody's paintings were of family members. Here we see a painting, which we think shows his father John Lightbody. There are also two close ups of detail of the face and the signature. This was painted in 1881 and Alex Lightbody, the painter, was born in 1855 so would have been about 26 at the time he painted this. The picture seems to show somebody who is maybe 55 - 65 and at that time his father John Lightbody (born in 1821), who was married to Elizabeth Hastings would have been 60. The painting also seems to show his forehead as pale at the top and tanned from below a line on his forehead and John Lightbody was at various times a Hawker, a Ploughman and a Labourer so working outside with a hat could easily generate such a line.
Detail of his face :
The signature :
This next picture we believe is my Great Uncle, Alexander Lightbody. He was born in 1882 so I would guess this second picture was painted some time around 1895. Both of these paintings have been kindly photographed by his grandson Andrew Lightbody.
And here is a picture of his wife Janet (née Brown). The original colours have apparently not been quite captured in the scan but it still looks lovely. The painting is 19.5x15.5 inches. Painting scanned by Mary Renfrew, a great grand-daughter of the artist.
If you look at the following photograph of Janet Lightbody, you can see the striking similarities. I also like that she is wearing a dress with a small bow at the front - rather like the one in the photograph !
Next are two landscape paintings of the valley of Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland. Firstly here is a photograph of this dramatic valley in case you havent seen it !
Now here are Alexander Lightbody's paintings of this valley. This first painting of Glencoe has been kindly sent from Alexander Lightbody's grand-daughter Maureen in Canada.
This painting shows the middle one of a series of hills called the Three Sisters, or possibly Buchaille Etive Mor on the left. The weather is typical for that isolated remote Highland valley !
Here is another picture, probably of Glencoe (does anyone recognise if it is and where it is painted from ?), kindly scanned by Alex Lightbody's great grand-daughter Mary Renfrew :
Next, here are three further landscapes sent by Maureen, Alexander Lightbody's Grand-daughter in Canada.
The following landscape paintings are also rather like the Glencoe one in that they show water in the form of streams or lochs and also have light in the distance while the foreground is shaded by trees.
And finally, one of my favourites. The brushwork is excellent in this lovely colourful painting. It is quite small at 7 x 5 inches. It has an almost French atmosphere to it. It is a lovely painting of a bridge, with wonderful reflections and a nice hazy distance, scanned by Alexander Lightbody's great grand-daughter Mary Renfrew :
Latest Update - April 2013 - research from the internet has uncovered perhaps the best painting by our great grandfather so far ! The painting : http://futuremuseum.co.uk/collections/people/key-people/collectors-explorers/john-hunter-selkirk/john-r-s-hunter-selkirk-(1835-1898).aspx
The links explain how around 1893 or 1894, a John Gray encouraged Alex Lightbody, the artist, who was living in Braidwood, and barely making a living, yet obviously talented tall figure with a small moustache and sensitive features to paint a portrait of Dr John R.S. Hunter (famous geologist and fossil hunter) or more.
(From a reference : "Dr. Hunter is John R. S. Hunter-Selkirk, LLD (b. March 13, 1835, d. March 23, 1898) of Braidwood, a noted Scottish paleontologist and geologist. A good brief biography about him appears in History of the Geological Society of Glasgow, 1858-1908 by Geological Society of Glasgow, pp. 228-234 and it includes a fine portrait of him")
detail : "Dr. Hunter, (later Dr Hunter-Selkirk) was born
13th March, 1835, but spent most of his life from boyhood upwards in the Carluke district. When about ten years of age he read the Life of John Hunter, the eminent anatomist and founder of the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow and vowed to build a collection larger even than that. He married Miss Mary Selkirk, whose father was Selkirk the wealthy mine-owner in Braidwood. He joined in partnership with Dr. Selkirk in the Braidwood Coal, Lime, and Coke Company, and, as he had a colliery manager's certificate signed by the Secretary of State for Scotland, he acted as manager for the company. He gathered the Braidwood collection which is one of the most important ever brought together in this country by a private individual, with assistance from various local geologists and no doubt miners too who might find fossils in the limestone".)
Hunter-Selkirk : "Part of Hunter-Selkirk's collection was
donated to the Airdrie museum and he was also possibly
involved in the new Airdrie Observatory
A plaque was presented to Dr Hunter-Selkirk from the town council Library Committee of the Burgh of Airdrie which states “In commemoration of the valuable gift of part of the Braidwood Collection to the museum Dr Hunter Selkirk of Daleville, Carluke”
Hunter-Selkirk's Obituary reads "John Egbert Streatham Hunter-Selkirk, the antiquarian and geologist, died on March 23, in the sixty-third year of his age, at his residence, Daleville House, Braidwood, near Carluke, Lanarkshire. For many years he had been a member of the Royal Physical Society of Edinburgh, and of the Geological Societies of Edinburgh and Glasgow. "
When the painting was in its final stages, it met with the approval of the subject. Funds were raised (from Sir Wm Hozier of Mauldsley Castle at Carluke) (now demolished but was an Adam building) which amounted to £90 which was given to the artist, which in those days was the equivalent of two year's salary. This may well be the money which would propel the family of the artist to move from rural lanarkshire to the more prosperous (I imagine) West End of Glasgow. The other interesting facts which tie in with this story are that John Hunter-Selkirk was also a mine and quarry owner, and I suspect would reimburse miners who found fossils in the limestone rock of the mine. The Hunter collection was donated to the museum in Airdrie and Kilmarnock and I hope to find out more about the painting if it is there. References are here to see if you agree ! It all sounds pretty likely. The painting is more detailed and better than the one above of the artist's father, but it was painted a good 12 to 13 years later and I think you'd agree there are many similarities !
Updates from 2018
Well this has been an exciting year as finally we have found some more paintings and people have got in touch after spotting this web page.
First up we have three paintings that belonged to the father of Colin and Debbie who was based in Carluke.
The White Park cattle in Cadzow Estate - a popular location for artists in those days apparently.
Then a family relative from Canada Chuck Ingram spotted his mother had this painting and it is SOOO similar to the Cadzow Forest one above.
And then in the last few days, Ryan from USA got in touch with these paintings with a clear signature of Alex Lightbody. The paintings had emigrated with his family to America in the 1890s.
Craignethan Castle, Lanarkshire
Thank you to everyone who has scanned in or photographed the pictures - thank goodness for digital technology that makes these things easier ! I hope you all enjoy this wonderful gallery which we are hoping to keep adding to.
Other members of my family,
including my father and mother enjoy painting and my Uncle was a
wonderful sculptor and drawer of horses - more to follow !
Copyright Jennifer Wilson 2007-2018