Sir Herbert James Gunn was born in Glasgow and first studied art at the Glasgow School of Art. His talents as an artist were soon recognised and Gunn was fortunate to be sent to Académie Julian in Paris. He remained in Paris until 1914 when the threat of an unsettled continent forced him back to the UK. It was, however, during his time in France that Gunn developed his radical approach to compositional arrangements. His often stark palette of grey tones was used to heighten the dramatic placement of forms. As with this striking view of Pont Mirabeau in Paris, the physical location plays second fiddle to the technical structure of the composition, with only a brief visual reference to Le Trocadero on the horizon.
We have to remember that although we are now quite used to seeing pictorial arrangements like this in the 21st Century, when this oil on board was executed in 1913, his work was incredibly avant-garde, challenging much of the sentimental landscapes that were still being reproduced by the bulk of commercial Edwardian artists in Britain.
However, on his return to the UK the artistic elite were ready to receive Gunn with the radical art colonies of Newlyn, Staiths and St. Ives also challenging the accepted norm.
After a successful career, Gunn later became a member of the Royal Academy and in 1953/4 he was invited to paint Queen Elizabeth II in her Coronation robes, a picture that hangs in the Royal Collection to this day.