Smith – John Guthrie Spence Smith RSA (1880-1951)

John Guthrie Spence Smith was a Perth born artist with a distinctive approach to the landscapes and streetscapes of Scotland; John was born in Perth (14 February 1880) and died in Edinburgh (22 October 1951)

Early years

  • John was born on 14 February 1880 the fourth and youngest son of Perth Linen Draper Joseph Smith and his wife Grace Farquharson
  • a childhood illness caused John to lose his hearing and his speech


  • John first came to notice in 1904 when his design was selected in a public competition for the cover of the Syllabus of the 1904 Perth Arts and Crafts Exhibition
  • By 1906 John was attending the RSA Life Drawing Classes in Edinburgh
  • There John studied under Charles Hodge Mackie and Robert Burns
  • In 1906 John took several prizes there

Overseas travel

  • In 1911 and 1912 John undertook his only known overseas travel
  • On both occasions John went to northern France, in the company of his mother

Landscape artist

  • Most of John’s work was executed in Perthshire, Angus, Fife and the Lothians
  • John painted in watercolour but mainly in oils, often with a bold outline, and a collage-like application of rich paint
  • John had settled in Edinburgh by 1909
  • John was a co-founder and member of the so-called Edinburgh Group which centred round Eric Robertson and his wife Cecile Walton, who are also represented in the Perth collections

Royal Scottish Academy


  • John exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy, the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Bradford Fine Art Exhibition and the Perthshire Art Association, amongst others

John’s death

  • John died at his home in Edinburgh on 22 October 1951
  • On John’s death, Perth Musuem and Art Gallery received his bequest
  • This included a number of John’s pictures, pieces of glass, oriental material and his stamp collection
  • John is buried along side members of his family in Wellshill Cemetery, Perth


  • In 1977 a solo exhibition of John’s work was mounted at Perth Museum and Art Gallery as part of the 1977 Perth Festival of the Arts
  • In 1983 9 works by John were included in the first exhibition devoted to the Edinburgh Group at the City Art Centre Edinburgh
  • In 1986 an exhibition of his work was held at Perth Museum and Art Gallery and an accompanying booklet was also published to commemorate the 35th anniversary of his death
  • John’s work is to be found in a number of public collections in Great Britain, including Kelvingrove, Paisley, Dundee, Aberdeen, Kirkcaldy and City Art Centre Edinburgh

Find out more about John Guthrie Spence Smith

  • A booklet detailing John’s life and work was produced by Perth Museum and Art Gallery in 1986
  • It is unfortunately no longer available from Perth Museum and Art Gallery, but copies occasionally appear on the internet

Works by John Guthrie Spence Smith at Perth Museum and Art Gallery

(It is not possible to display all our collections at any one time. To view any of this material please contact us to make an appointment)


  • Secretary, Edinburgh College of Art, woodcut print


  • Self-Portrait in plus-floors at his easel with kittens, pen and ink and wash on paper
  • A Soldier with Dog, pen and ink and wash on paper


  • Wet Day, Etaples, watercolour on paper
  • Market Day, Etaples, watercolour on paper
  • Rest, watercolour on paper

Oil paintings

  • Ploughing Time, oil on canvas
  • Vanishing Walls, Castlegable, Perth,oil on board
  • Castlegable, Perth, oil on board
  • Elcho Castle, oil on canvas
  • St Andrews Harbour and Cathedral Ruins, oil on board
  • St Monance Church, oil on canvas
  • Farm Cottages, Ceres, oil on board
  • The Croft, Anstruther, oil on canvas
  • Edinburgh Castle, oil on board
  • Huntly House, Canongate, oil on board
  • Craigmillar Castle, oil on canvas
  • Near Craigmillar, oil on board
  • Pasture near Craigmillar, oil on board
  • Cir Mhor, oil on board
  • Cottages With Red Tiles, oil on board
  • Springtime Anworth, oil on board
  • Preston Kirk, East Lothian, oil on board
  • Self-Portrait, oil on board


  • Portrait of J G Spence Smith, oil on canvas by David Alison RSA (1882-1954)
  • Stamp Collection, coin collection, glass, and oriental carvings

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