The six murals for Possilpark library were designed and executed by Glasgow School of Art (GSA) students under the careful guidance of Professor Maurice Greiffenhagen (1862-1931) and Robert Anning Bell (1863-1933).
Previously, Greiffenhagen had designed and painted seven panels for the Glasgow Department Store Pettigrew & Stephens which are now housed in the Hunterian Museum. The Pettigrew & Stephens panels are entitled Circe, Aridane, Discobolus, Aphrodite, Bacchante, Atalanta, and Harvest and were designed for the smoking room in the new department store buildings in 1922. Each panel is around seven foot by 3 foot high with ‘Heavy masses of primary colours contrasted with white and skilfully harmonised to provide rich and beautiful effects.’
The department store reproduced all seven murals, which were located in the new Men’s Café and Smoking Area at the Bath Street entrance, in a small celebratory booklet entitled ‘Classic Panels By Maurice Greiffenhagen, R.A’. Pettigrew & Stephens Department Store, established in 1888, was situated on Sauchiehall Street and sold an array for goods including clothes, carpets, china and furniture. The department store seems to have worked closely with GSA, using several students and staff to produce various pieces of work including marketing materials such as catalogues, menus and decorative details.
The Possilpark panels were unveiled by the Lord Provost D.M Stevenson on the 27th January 1914 and depict six the elements of human knowledge. Painted by GSA’s top senior students, the panels depicting Science, Astronomy and Art were all painted by female students – Josephine Cameron (nee Haswill Miller) (1890-1975), Alma Assafrey (1888-1914) and Helen Johnstone (1888-1931).
Geography, Poetry and Commerce were painted by male students – Archibald McGlashan (1888-1980), Tom Gentleman and Robertson Weir. You can still visit all six panels in the library as they are amazingly still in-situ over one hundred years on. To find out more about the panels you can watch a short video here.
GSA’s second scheme for a library was only undertaken in the 1920’s due to the interruption of the war. Designed by Professor Maurice Greiffenhagen, the twenty-one foot by seven foot mural for Langside Library was entitled ‘Queen Mary at the Battle of Langside’ and was official handed over to the Corporation of the City of Glasgow on the 6th January 1920.