Elected ARSA: 21 March 1906 

Mr. Coventry, who came of an old Glasgow family, was born on 25th July 1855 in the Bridgeton district of that city, where his early years were passed amidst somewhat prosaic surroundings. Moved, doubtless, by some stirring of the artistic temperament, he commenced life as a designer, but soon the mercantile character of the work becoming distasteful to him, he was led to cherish higher ideals. Whilst still a lad he became an exhibitor at the Glasgow Institute, and, at the same time, in furtherance of his aims, he attended classes at the Glasgow School of Art.


When some years later he was able to devote himself entirely to the painter's career, like many of his confreres in the West, he spent some time in a Parisian Studio, where he was a pupil of Bouguereau and Fleury. From the outset of his professional life Mr. Coventry seems to have been attracted by the picturesque character and surroundings of the fishing industry, and seldom has a painter remained more steadfast to his first inclination.


For at home and abroad, and in different mediums, during the thirty odd years of his art life, though exhibiting now and again such landward subjects as “Wood Gatherers, Brabant” (1904), “ A Forest Mill” (1907), and “ Mechlin Cathedral” (1908), he was best known to the art public as a painter of fisher folk and their craft, as these are to be found on the shores of the Forth, in the north and west of Scotland, or in the ports and waterways of the Low Countries.


His technique is seen at its best in his water- colour drawings, mostly conceived in lightsome and opal- escent colour schemes which fit well with the sunny side of seafaring life, and with the stir and sparkle of picturesque havens under summer skies, which so attracted him.


His abilities in this department of his craft were recognised by his election to the Membership of the Royal Scottish Water Colour Society in 1889. His name first appears in the Academy’s catalogue for 1891-2, but it was not till the change of the centuries that Mr. Coventry became a regular contributor, and though rarely represented by more than one or two examples, the estimation in which his work was held by his brother artists is attested by his election to the Associateship in 1906.


He was a frequent contributor to continental Exhibitions, and his works are to be found in various important collections, both at home and abroad. Of a cheerful and optimistic disposition—as might be inferred from the nature of his art, Mr. Coventry had a large circle of friends and acquaintances, amongst whom he was very popular. For some time he had been in rather fragile health, but the end came somewhat suddenly on the 29th of March, at his residence in Glasgow.

Transcribed from the 1941 RSA Annual Report


Further Images

Robert McGown Coventry ARSA (1855-1914), A Forest Mill

Oil on canvas, around 1912, 109.2 x 144.8 cm

Gifted by the artist's daughter, Mrs Edward Robertson, Inveresk (1918) 2004.05