The decade in Scottish Painting from 1880 was largely dominated by the emergence of a group of young artists who were popularly known as "The Glasgow Boys". James Guthrie, a founder member of the group together with his fellow artists who included Joseph Crawhall and Edward Walton established a pact who rebelled against the doctrines of the Royal Scottish Academy in favour of the creativity and technical advances common to European realism.
During this period, the French realist artist Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848-1884) had a fundamental impact on the Glasgow Boys and significantly influenced the direction of their work away from the traditional forms of Scottish genre painting towards an objective representation of contemporary life.
In 1881, Guthrie together with Crawhall, Henry and Walton travelled to the Perthshire village of Brig o'Turk, where intending to spend the Summer sketching, the tragic death by drowning of a young boy had a profound effect on Guthrie's work, and provided the subject matter of his first major work "A Funeral in the Highlands" (GAGM) which was exhibited to great aclaim at the Royal Academy, London in te Spring of 1882.
During 1882, Guthrie, Crawhall and Walton spent several months in the Linconshire village of Crowland, where the cultivated fen-lands and open landscape provided a startling contrast to the rugged mountains of the Central Highlands. Caw writes (op.cit.) " In the fen-country, in the South-east corner of Lincolnshire known as the Parts of Holland, the landscape about Crowland...was very different in character from that at Brig o'Turk. Long and wide expanses of level pasture, spread all around, with nothing to break the low horizon except rows of poplars and an occasional church spire or windmill". It was the almost foreign qualities of the landscape of the Fens, free from the distracting features of the Highlands which Guthrie incorpotrated with the figure of a solitary peasant girl herding geese along a track and resulted in "To Pastures New" (Aberdeen Art Gallery).
In addition, the artist's increasing awareness of the effectiveness of working `"en-plein air" required a more constant light than that which was available in the steep sided glens and clouded skies of Perthshire. This painting of Crowland village (1882) illustrates not only the benefits of a heightened pitch and consistant light which working out of doors allowed, but also of the textural effects achieved by the adoption of square brushwork. The documented contribution of Joseph Crawhall to the painting of the dog clearly illustrates the collaboration and strength of friendship between the Boys, and this cross-fertilisation of differing aspects of the work of Guthrie with his fellow artists is apparent even at this early stage. For example, the colourful display of numerous public notices on the wall of the bridge later appears in the Portrait of E A Walton (1884) by Crawhall where a similar effect of the fragmented labels is used to considerable effect.