Pringle, like many contemporary fellow Scottish artists, was strongly influenced by the French realist painter Jules Bastien-Lepage. He saw his work in exhibitions in Glasgow in the 1880s, and Pringle adopted, in particular, elements of Bastien-Lepage's technique and Realist subject matter. However, Pringle clearly synthesised these influences in a distinctly personal way, adding his own intense range of colouring, and heightening the Post Impressionist tendency to squared, inter-woven brushstrokes.
He almost exclusively painted Glasgow scenes, urban and sub-urban, and Glasgow characters, including friends and acquaintances, with an almost wilful parochialism.
He was a semi-professional artist, who nevertheless exhibited in Vienna, at the Secessionist exhibition in 1902, in London at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1914, and frequently in Scotland. He was trained as an optical repair man and ran a shop offering these, and other repair services, in Saltmarket in Glasgow for many years. The shop doubled as his studio. He had previously trained as an artist in Glasgow between 1883-88, at one time alongside Charles Rennie Mackintosh, and there is undoubtedly a strong decorative strain in his work, with his often limited range of colours nevertheless creating great luminosity.
Pringle stopped painting in oils in 1911, and did not resume until towards the end of his life in the early 1920s. He is an eccentric but highly distinctive artist, much revered in Scotland, who deserves greater recognition. His work is rare, only some 100 works survive, and many of these are in institutional collections, notably at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, and the Tate Gallery in London.
This particular work, dating from 1903, depicts a Glasgow character nicknamed Kruger, for his likeness to the contemporary Boer leader. He features in three portraits of this period and was a frequent visitor to Pringle's shop. There is a similar, although later, work Man with a Drinking Mug, in the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh.
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