Now an appeal has been launched to trace the heirs of the Glasgow Girls and reunite them with their forebears’ fortunes. The band of artists and designers, who were synonymous with the Glasgow School at the turn of the 20th century, went on to leave an indelible mark on the art world.
Their work, which took the form not just of paintings and illustrations but textiles, ceramics and metals, is credited with helping to bring the distinctive Glasgow Style to the world’s attention.
But more than a century after they first came to prominence, the identity of many of the artists’ descendants is a mystery.
Now, the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), together with DACS, a not-for-profit visual artists’ rights management organisation, has asked for the public’s help in tracing the relatives.
Anyone who is identified as an eligible heir to one of the Glasgow Girls will not only be able to claim an internationally renowned artist as part of their family tree, but also stand to enjoy a financial windfall.
Thousands of pounds in unclaimed royalties from the Glasgow Girls’ works are owed to their relatives under the Artist’s Resale Right, a law which came into force in the UK in 2006. The initiative entitles artists or their heirs to a royalty whenever their copyright-protected work resells on the art market.
However, time is running out for the families of the Glasgow Girls to claim the money; if an heir is not found after six years, the royalties are returned to the gallery, auction house or the dealer who sold the works.
The GSA, where the vast majority of the artists studied, hopes the campaign will not only pass on royalties to the rightful families, but allow it to learn more about some of its most famous alumni.
Susannah Waters, the art school’s archives and collections manager, said: “We would love to hear from any family members to help GSA Archives & Collections to learn more about the life and times of our graduates.”
The artists identified as part of the appeal continue to command strong prices whenever their works come up for sale.
They include Jessie Marion King, who was born in Bearden, north of Glasgow, in 1875 and went on to study and teach at the GSA.
A renowned children’s book illustrator and designer of jewellery, fabrics and pottery, her elaborate, decorative style was in part inspired by fantasy lore and legend.
Although the first retrospective shows of work did not take place until the 1970s, a quarter of a century after her death, her profile has grown considerably in recent years.