Title: Getting Advice on Painting the Picture
Size: 81cm x 91cm
Medium: Acrylic & Oil on Board

Additional Information
Inspired piece: Jan Steen (1625/6-1679), A School for Boys and Girls (about 1670), Oil on Canvas, 81.7cm x 108.6cm

Link here to the piece in the National Galleries of Scotland collection.

"The picture I have concentrated on from the National Galleries of Scotland, depicts a Dutch classroom around 1670. The schoolmaster is busy sharpening a quill, while around him all havoc is breaking loose. Some boys are wrestling, one sleeping, another standing on a table entertaining the class. Also, others are seen carrying on with their studies and one child is obediently having his spelling corrected by the schoolmistress. Jan Steen painted other works on the same theme.

Years ago, like many other young students, I used to watch people copying old master paintings in museums. Being more interested in “modern art”, I sort of frowned on this practise. However, with age I now see this as a valuable thing to do. Hence by working from the Jan Steen, I now see what an amazingly skillful painter he was, also how we can learn so much of that period with the tall, broad-brimmed hats, the use of quills for writing, old inkwells and the fashions of the day.

Another interesting point is that Jan Steen only reached the age of 53 and this picture was done when he was about 44. As an octogenarian I feel sorry he never lived longer, like so many of the painters of the period. To have reached such mastery of his art by the time this picture was painted gives us pause for thought.

How fortunate people who live in large cities like Edinburgh are, when they can look at so many masterpieces like this at any given opportunity." John Johnstone

Price: £1950

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About the Artist

John Johnstone was born in Forfar in 1941. He studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art 1959-64, and was highly commended. He received a major travelling scholarship to visit European Capitals and was a part time lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art for many years. He is a regular exhibitor at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Scottish Society of Artists and is a professional member of the Scottish Society of Artists and Scottish Visual Arts.

“My paintings seem to be expressing something, either serious or amusing about life. They depict people acting out minor dramas. Gesture, composition, characterisation and setting are important. There is an element of gravity in them, but the humorous side probably eclipses that aspect.

I’ve always been attracted by ‘characters’ – the types you see in illustrated books by Dickens brought up to date. The Wit, the Rake, the Philosopher, the kind of people you see in bars arguing their point. The Spiv, the Con-man, the Cheeky Chappie, the Vamp, the Naughty Boy, the Lounge Lizard, Mr Angry, Little Miss Lonely – how they all react to each other. Two or three of these characters might find their way into way into my paintings – things start happening – I try to get it all down – it never works out the way I planned, so I start sketching the next scene…”


John has works in numerous public and private collections in the UK and abroad including HRH the Duke of Edinburgh, Carnegie Trust’s Art Collection, Angus Council Collection, Dundee City Collection, The McManus Galleries Collection and Fife Council Museums West Collection.

Selected Exhibitions

1966/67 The Alwin Gallery, London
1967 The Contemporary Jamaican Artist Association
1974 McManus Galleries, Dundee (Six Dundee Painters)
1991 The Seagate Gallery, Dundee
1996 William Hardie, Ltd (Glasgow Art Fair)
2002 Kingston, Jamaica
2003 The Queens Gallery, Dundee
2003 Won First Prize in Angus Council’s Summer Salon Exhibition
2005 Albemarle Gallery, London. “What is Realism?” An exhibition curated by Edward Lucie-Smith
2005 Colours Gallery, Edinburgh
2006 Albemarle Gallery, London. Winter Salon.
2008 Albemarle Gallery, London. Two Person Exhibition.
2009 Albemarle Gallery, London. “Fantastic Worlds”
2011 Albemarle Gallery, London. Summer Collective.
2015 Kinblethmont Gallery. “55 Years of Painting”
2016 Compass Gallery, Glasgow. Solo Show.
2017 Meffan Gallery, Forfar. Retrospective Exhibition.