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Environmental and ecological readings

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Philippe Laplace

Part I. Nature and the Environment: Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

The Evolution of the Representation of Highland Landscapes by Scottish Painters between the Eighteenth and the Twenty-First Centuries

Marion Amblard

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  • 1 This research project was carried out between September 2005 and March 2011. According to Dundee Un (...)
  • 2 ‘From the Land: Clearance, Conflict and Crofting’ was held at An Lanntair, Stornoway from 26 July 1 (...)

1In Scotland there has been a growing interest in Gaelic art, literature and language. Since the 1980s, Highland pictorial art has been rediscovered and revalued thanks to numerous exhibitions and studies carried out by Scottish scholars. The wealth and diversity of this art has been highlighted by the research project called Window to the West/Uinneag dhan Aird an Iar. Towards a Redefinition of the Visual within Gaelic Scotland led by Professor Murdo Macdonald (Dundee University) along with artists William Maclean (1941-) and Norman Shaw (1970-).1 Several exhibitions such as ‘From the Land: Clearance, Conflict and Crofting’ held in 1986 at Stornoway museum, ‘ “Highlands” in the Islands’ also organized at Stornoway in 2008 and more recently, at the beginning of 2011, the exhibition at the Edinburgh City Art Centre entitled ‘Window to the West: the Rediscovery of Highland art’2 accompanying the eponymous research project have greatly contributed to the reassessment of Highland art. Fifty contemporary Scottish artists have also paid tribute to Gaelic art and culture by participating in the publication of the book entitled The Great Book of Gaelic alongside poets and calligraphers. Among others, Alasdair Gray (1934-), Alan Davie (1920-), Norman Shaw, Calum Colvin (1961-), Will Maclean, Calum Angus Mackay (1962-) and James Morrison (1933-) have each produced a work to illustrate a poem composed in Gaelic between the sixth and the twenty-first century. Thus, to accompany ‘Circle about the Moon’ and ‘Final Farewell to the Bens’, poems by Catriona Montgomery and Duncan Bàn Macintyre, Morrison and Mackay executed illustrations representing mountains covered in snow which evoke Highland landscapes. Nowadays the Highlands attract and inspire many Scottish artists. However the painters’ interest in the region is fairly recent as they only began to represent Highland landscapes in the eighteenth century.

2This article aims at analyzing and explaining the evolution of the representation of Highland landscapes painted by Scottish artists between the eighteenth century and the twenty-first century. Our study will enable us to investigate the different factors which incited landscape painters to draw their inspiration from views of northwest Scotland and influenced the way they have represented these landscapes. The analysis of a few works will help us define the main characteristics of the paintings executed during the period under investigation. Three stages can be distinguished in the history of the pictorial representation of Highland landscapes and they centre on Sir Walter Scott’s influence and on the evolution of Scottish identity. The first stage stretches from the first half of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the 1830s. During the second stage, which corresponds to the period running from the early 1830s to 1880, we will note that Scottish landscape painters were profoundly influenced by the poems and novels written by Scott and by the definition of the Scottish pro-unionist identity. From the 1880s, Scottish painters have never stopped being inspired by Highland landscapes, but their paintings stand out from the works executed by Victorian romantic painters which gave a very different representation of the region.!

  • 3 A capriccio is a painted or drawn composition combining real and imaginary architectural features i (...)
  • 4 James Norie and John Griffier II, A View of Taymouth and Loch Tay, 1733 and 1739, Scottish National (...)
  • 5 Robert Norie, Landscape with Shepherds and a Fisherman, 1741, collection of the Duke of Hamilton.

3Throughout the eighteenth century Scottish artists painted few landscapes which mainly represented the Lowlands, capriccios3 or Italian views they had had the opportunity to execute when they went to Rome for their artistic training. James Norie (1684-1757) and his son Robert (who died in 1766) seem to have been the first Scottish painters to draw their inspiration from Highland landscapes. At the request of his patron Lord Glenorchy, who commissioned a topographical view of the garden he had laid out by the architect and landscape gardener William Adam (1689- 1748), James Norie produced in 1733 a view of Taymouth Castle and of the surrounding Perthshire countryside.4 The picture which is now on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh is not the original composition by Norie as it was modified in 1739 by Jan Griffier II (c. 1690- c. 1773) in order to show the changes Glenorchy had made to his park and gardens during the 1730s. In 1741, Robert Norie painted four works – two architectural scenes and two landscapes – for the Duke of Hamilton in which he mixed fantasy with typical Scottish features including mountains, waterfalls, sheep and castellated ruins. The distinctive outline of Ben Lawers which can be seen in the landscape James Norie had painted for Lord Glenorchy, is clearly visible in the background of Robert Norie’s Landscape with Shepherds and a Fisherman.5 As noted by James Holloway:

  • 6 James Holloway, ‘The Norie Family’, Scottish Masters, 20 (Edinburgh: The National Galleries of Scot (...)

The deliberate abandonment of the cardinal rule of Scottish landscape painting – that native landscape and decorative paintings should not mix – was a breakthrough and, although a less accomplished artist than his brother [James], Robert Norie made a greater contribution to the development of landscape painting in Scotland.6

  • 7 According to Holloway ‘the Norie family ran the most successful decorative painting business in Sco (...)
  • 8 On the life and work of Alexander Runciman see Duncan Macmillan, ‘The Earlier Career of Alexander R (...)
  • 9 Reynolds’s impression was recorded by a Scotsman called Irvine in 1781: ‘my Countryman More comes t (...)
  • 10 Alexander Runciman, A View Near Perth, Landscape from Milton’s ‘L’Allegro’, 1773, National Gallery (...)
  • 11 Charles Steuart, Loch Tay and Ben Lawers from the Park at Taymouth, c. 1760, private collection.
  • 12 The etcher John Clerk of Eldin (1728-1812) who visited the Highlands in 1769, 1776 and 1779, made s (...)
  • 13 David Allan, The Fourth Duke of Atholl and His Family, 1780, The Blair Charitable Trust, Blair Cast (...)
  • 14 David Allan, The Highland Wedding at Blair Castle, 1780, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.
  • 15 Alexander Nasmyth, Loch Awe, c. 1785, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. Nasmyth was the first (...)
  • 16 Alexander Nasmyth, A Distant View of Stirling, c. 1827, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.
  • 17 The picturesque is a ‘descriptive term that was formulated into an aesthetic category in late eight (...)
  • 18 On Hugh William Williams’s life and work see Rebecca Bodmer, ‘Hugh William Williams 1773-1829’ (unp (...)

4James Norie and his sons Robert and James (1711-36) ran a flourishing family business in decorative art in Edinburgh.7 Among their apprentices, they trained Alexander Runciman (1736-85) and Jacob More (1740-93) who became two major artists in the second half of the eighteenth century.8 More executed several Scottish landscapes but never represented the Highlands; in 1771, his pictures showing the falls of Clyde were critically acclaimed and Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723-92) was one of his keenest admirers.9 Despite his success, More did not want to stay in Britain: at the beginning of the 1770s he decided to settle in Rome where he had a successful career specializing in Italian views and imaginary Claudean landscapes. Runciman is now best remembered for the Ossianic series of paintings he made in 1772 for his patron Sir John Clerk at Penicuik House. He also made drawings and paintings of landscapes and one of his works, A View Near Perth, Landscape from Milton’s ‘L’Allegro’, representing Highland scenery, combines his love for landscape painting with his interest in literature.10 Another apprentice of the Nories named Charles Steuart (active 1760-90) executed several views of Perthshire in the 1760s and one of them, which is entitled Loch Tay and Ben Lawers from the Park at Taymouth, is reminiscent of James Norie’s picture of Taymouth castle.11 It was not until 1780 that another Scottish artist produced a Highland landscape.12 In a conversation piece, David Allan (1744-96) represented the 4th Duke of Atholl and his family in front of their country seat, Blair Castle.13 The same year Allan made the genre scene The Highland Wedding at Blair Castle whose background shows the surroundings of Blair Castle.14 It was from the mid-1810s that Alexander Nasmyth (1758-1840) began producing a growing number of Highland landscapes. However, in 1785, he had painted Loch Awe which already presented the main characteristics of his works representing northwest Scotland.15 When comparing Loch Awe to A Distant View of Stirling, one notes that the picture of the Highland landscape does not contrast with Nasmyth’s views of Lowland counties.16 Indeed throughout his career he retained the same formula of composition: in the foreground, the trees which are nearly reaching the top of the canvas are used as foils; in the middle distance a lake or a river can be seen and, in the background, there are low mountains or hills. There is also a figure or a group of figures in the foreground. Nasmyth’s landscapes are redolent of the classical manner of Claude Lorrain (1600-1682) and Gaspard Dughet (1615-1675), who were among the favourite painters of eighteenth-century British art collectors and whose works Nasmyth had been able to study during his stay in Rome. Loch Awe also conforms to the picturesque aesthetic of the late eighteenth century as defined by Reverend William Gilpin.17 Nasmyth used dark colours in the foreground, whereas for the middle distance he preferred a lighter tone; the background is not as minutely detailed as the other parts of the composition. Following the picturesque principles, Nasmyth often associated Highland scenery with Scottish history by representing castles. It was also the case of Hugh William Williams (1773-1829) who, before specializing in the pictorial representation of Greece, painted several views of the Highlands which are redolent of Nasmyth’s work.18

  • 19 In Western Europe landscape painting became a genre in its own right during the Renaissance. Accord (...)

5When examining the pictures executed by Scottish artists before 1830, one notices that painters were not really attracted to the Highlands and that landscapes had also long been considered as a mere backdrop. At that time, in Scotland, a landscape could not be the main subject – apart from a topographical view showing a patron’s estate – it was used as a background for genre scenes, family portraits or historical paintings.19 James Holloway who compared Scottish and Irish arts did not hesitate to write:

  • 20 James Holloway, Patrons and Painters: Art in Scotland 1650-1760 (Edinburgh: Scottish National Portr (...)

The Scots, unlike the Irish, had little interest in landscape painting. While talented painters, native or foreign, depicted the towns and countryside of Ireland, little comparable work was produced in Scotland. Indeed, during the eighteenth century, while Scottish portraiture was at least the equal if not superior to Irish portraiture, landscape painting was markedly inferior and for the whole of the century Scotland trailed Ireland by at least a generation.20

  • 21 Sir John Clerk of Penicuik wrote in 1739 after a Highland tour: ‘from Dalwhinny, about 10 or 12 mil (...)

6The scarcity of paintings was partly due to the very limited art market in Scotland. Until the beginning of the nineteenth century Scottish patrons mainly limited their commissions to portraits; moreover, landscape painting was a minor pictorial genre and it was preferable to specialize in history painting, which was then considered as the noblest form of art, or in portraiture which enabled painters to get enough commissions to earn a living. Indeed, those who remained in Scotland and who were not portraitists had to diversify their activities as they could not live from their art alone: thus Runciman worked as a decorative artist and as a master at the Trustees’ Academy; David Allan also taught in the same artistic training centre and produced works to illustrate books; as for Alexander Nasmyth, when he started to execute landscapes he also worked as a landscape gardener and he set up his own art school. The lack of interest in Highland landscapes can also be explained by the patrons’ tastes for classical pictures in the manner of Claude Lorrain and Gaspard Dughet, whose style was not adapted to the landscapes and luminosity of the Highlands. Moreover, patrons did not want paintings showing views which had long been considered as unpleasant.21 However, from the beginning of the nineteenth century, their opinion on Highland scenery evolved. From then on, the Highlands aroused admiration and, in 1860, the author of an essay on the region explained that tourists and artists had been flocking to the north west of Scotland since the 1820s:

  • 22 Anonymous, Lectures on the Mountains; on the Highlands and Highlanders as They Were and as They Are(...)

Within the last forty years scarcely one of any note in the world of letters has not left footprints on Benledi, Benlomond, Benevies, […] and wandered by lakes and scenes rendered clear to heart and eye by the songs and stories of Ossian and Scott; while the most celebrated of these Classic scenes have been transferred to canvas by the pencils of Williams, Landseer, MacCulloch, and others – the first artists of the age.22

7This interest for the Highlands incited artists to paint more views of the region and, as David and Francina Irwin have explained, this contributed to the development of landscape painting in Scotland:

  • 23 David and Francina Irwin, Scottish Painters at Home and Abroad 1700-1900 (London: Faber, 1975), p.  (...)

An analysis of the catalogues [of the exhibitions held annually in Edinburgh] reveals that from 1808 to 1815 approximately a quarter of paintings shown were landscapes. During the 1820s the count rose to somewhere between a third and a half of the total, reaching a peak in 1827 when 110 paintings were landscape subjects.23

  • 24 J. Holloway and L. Errington, The Discovery of Scotland, p. 103.
  • 25 Many nineteenth-century English painters also visited the Highlands and were inspired by landscapes (...)
  • 26 In 1760, the publication of Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected in the Highlands of Scotland, an (...)
  • 27 Their paintings did not show Scotland’s industrial development; back in the nineteenth century, Sco (...)

8Several factors contributed to the Scottish painters’ specialization in Highland views from the 1830s onwards. For artists, this had a financial interest: with the craze for the Highlands, painters were able to get a growing number of commissions for landscape paintings. The development of roads and the building of a railway line facilitated the access to the region.24 As is suggested by the titles of their works, painters had, from then on, the opportunity to work in some of the remotest areas of the north and northwest Highlands which had not been the case before: until the beginning of the nineteenth century, they did not seem to have travelled beyond the southern and central parts of the Highlands; they usually went to Perthshire and Argyllshire. Afterwards, a great number of painters went to work in Sutherland and on the isles of Skye, Iona and Canna.25 Nevertheless, the poems and novels by Walter Scott celebrating the natural beauty of the Highlands and associating the landscapes with famous historical events and above all the definition of a new Scottish identity, are the main factors which influenced Scottish painters to specialize in Highland scenery.26 In the wake of the Napoleonic wars, the Scots felt the need to define a new identity presenting Scotland as a distinct and equal partner to England within Great Britain. Together Scott, writers, historians and painters created a national identity which assimilated Scotland to the Highlands. With their paintings, landscape painters invented and conveyed an idealized romantic image of the region which was used to express the distinctiveness of Scotland by stressing the wild beauty of unique landscapes in Britain. They also confirmed Scotland’s loyalty towards Great Britain by celebrating in their works the Highlands as the homeland of brave British soldiers. This pictorial representation which helped forge the Scottish pro-unionist identity deliberately ignored the fact that Scotland was composed of two distinct regions; moreover it did not evoke the difficulties the Highlands were going through.27

  • 28 On Horatio McCulloch see Alexander Fraser, The Works of Horatio MacCulloch, R.S.A (Edinburgh: Andre (...)
  • 29 Alexander Nasmyth, Highland Loch Scene with Castle, Boat and Figures, c. 1820, present location unk (...)
  • 30 Marion Amblard, ‘Du Rebelle au héros. Les Highlanders vus par les portraitistes des Lowlands entre  (...)
  • 31 John MacWhirter, In Skye, 1869, Dundee Art Galleries and Museums, Dundee; Peter Graham, A Spate in (...)

9Among the main Scottish landscape painters who specialized in Highland landscapes between 1830 and 1880, one can mention John MacWhirter (1839-1911), James Giles (1801-1870), Peter Graham (1826- 1921), Arthur Perigal (1816-84), Joseph Farquharson (1846-1935) and Horatio McCulloch (1805-1867). McCulloch was the most popular romantic landscape painter in Scotland and the leading artist of the Scottish school of landscape painting during the second half of the nineteenth century.28 A comparative study of Highland Loch Scene with Castle, Boat and Figures by Alexander Nasmyth and View Near Aberfoyle29 by McCulloch encompasses both the stylistic and thematic evolution of the school of landscape painting throughout the nineteenth century; it also shows the evolution of the pictorial representation of the Highlands. Highland Loch Scene with Castle, Boat and Figures is a picture in a classical idiom that derives ultimately from Claude Lorrain; apart from the term ‘Highland’ in the title, no element in the painting enables the viewer to associate the landscape to the Highlands. McCulloch’s work belongs to Romanticism; as in most of the backgrounds of his paintings, he represented mountains whose peaks are more reminiscent of the Alps than of the Highland mountains. If groups of figures are represented in the foreground of Nasmyth’s work, McCulloch’s painting is characterized by the absence of human figures and stresses the loneliness and sublime beauty of the Highland landscapes which have not been damaged by Man. In their works, McCulloch and the majority of Scottish artists included the same elements: they painted high mountains, lakes and mountain streams under a stormy sky or at sunset. Conforming to the needs of the pro-unionist identity, painters stress the distinctiveness of Scotland, highlighting the uniqueness of Highland landscapes and their rugged features which stand out from English scenery. These paintings offer a complementary representation to the portraits of Highlanders wearing a kilt which were executed by Scottish portraitists after 1815: in these two types of works, artists stressed the specificity of the Highland landscapes and culture and gave the impression of a land of traditions where nothing had changed for centuries.30 Painters also underlined the harsh Highland climate by representing threatening skies as can be seen in the pictures of MacWhirter, Graham and McCulloch entitled In Skye, A Spate in the Highlands and Highland Landscape with a Waterfall.31

Horatio McCulloch, Highland Landscape with a Waterfall,

Horatio McCulloch, Highland Landscape with a Waterfall,

© Scottish National Gallery, 2015

  • 32 John Knox, Landscape with Tourists at Loch Katrine, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

10As for Farquharson, he often represented a landscape covered in a thick layer of snow. In their works, painters sometimes associated landscapes with literature, representing places described by James Macpherson and Walter Scott. Among others, John Knox painted a view of Loch Katrine32 celebrated by Scott in his poem The Lady of the Lake published in 1810 and which had become one of the tourists’ favourite haunts. Highland landscapes were also often associated with Scottish history through the representation of castles or of places related to famous historical events, as is the case of views of Glencoe, the valley where the MacDonald clan was slaughtered in February 1692. Moreover, Victorian artists painted an important number of Highland landscapes in which deer or sheep are shown. The interpretation of these works is ambiguous as Professor John Morrison believes that they may allude to the mass wave of emigration caused by the development of sheep farms and of deer forests:

  • 33 John Morrison, Painting the Nation. Identity and Nationalism in Scottish Painting, 1800- 1920 (Edin (...)

Works such as Arthur Perigal’s Morning in Glen Nevis, along with countless others, chief among them dozens of sheep images by Joseph Farquharson, whatever their intention and surface values, must inevitably commemorate clearances and emigration. Similar observations can be made regarding images of red deer. […] Paintings such as Glencoe promote the chimera of Highlandism while they simultaneously, if less directly than numerous images by Queen Victoria’s favourite painter of the Highlands, Edwin Landseer, unconsciously celebrate the destruction of the culture and landscape they outwardly endorse.33

11Progressively, from the 1880s, painters began to contest the pictorial representation of Scottish identity as conveyed by the works of romantic painters, and they wanted to offer a different vision without challenging the pro-unionist identity. Rather than assimilating Scotland to the Highlands, several painters represented views of the Lowlands to remind us that Scotland is composed of two distinct regions. Other artists continued to paint Highland landscapes but, through their works, they evoked the crisis the region had been going through since the second half of the eighteenth century.

12Sir George Reid (1841-1913) was one of the first Scottish landscape painters from the Victorian era who did not specialize in Highland scenery: from the 1870s, he preferred executing views of the Lowlands in the manner of the Dutch Realist painters. Reid was harshly criticized by the members of the Royal Scottish Academy. McCulloch even took the initiative of touching up one of Reid’s landscapes which was on display at the annual Royal Scottish Academy exhibition in order to improve it. As Morrison explained:

  • 34 John Morrison, Painting the Nation. Identity and Nationalism in Scottish Painting, p. 149.

Reid had exhibited Spynie Castle and Loch at the RSA, Horatio McCulloch, the chief exponent of Scottish romantic landscape in the period, altered the younger artist’s work as it hung in the exhibition. His assumption that Reid was attempting to join the ranks of romanticists and therefore that he would benefit from any such alteration was unchallenged by the RSA establishment.34

  • 35 William York MacGregor, The Mill Pond, 1882, Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth; George Henry, A G (...)
  • 36 The career of McTaggart has been studied in several books. See James Caw, William McTaggart (Glasgo (...)
  • 37 McTaggart was not the only Scottish artist to evoke the Highland Clearances in his paintings it was (...)
  • 38 William McTaggart, The Emigrants, 1889, Tate Britain, London.

13In the 1880s, the painters forming the group of artists known as the Glasgow Boys followed Reid’s example and they executed a series of paintings in a naturalist style representing Lowland landscapes such as The Mill Pond by William York MacGregor (1855-1923) and A Galloway Landscape by George Henry (1858-1943). They also produced several works showing toiling Lowland agricultural workers as in A Berwickshire Fieldworker by Edward Arthur Walton (1860-1922) and in Sir James Guthrie’s A Hind’s Daughter.35 However, in general, Scottish artists continued to draw their inspiration from the Highlands. Towards the end of the 1880s began a period which, in the history of Scottish art, is known as the Celtic Revival: the artists involved in this movement were inspired by jewels, artefacts, monuments and manuscripts from the Celtic civilization to paint their pictures representing, in most cases, mythological characters. It was during that period that William McTaggart (1835-1910) executed two series of paintings which occupy a central place in the history of the pictorial representation of the Highlands.36 The first series includes three paintings whose subject is the coming of Saint Columba to the Highlands and it was painted between 1895 and 1904. The second one includes six paintings executed between 1889 and 1898. It deals with the mass wave of emigration of the Highlanders during the nineteenth century. They do not present any stylistic or thematic affinities with the Scottish romantic landscape painters’ works: instead of representing mountain views, McTaggart preferred the seascapes of the Kintyre peninsula in the west of Scotland where he grew up and where he would return painting throughout his career. In his paintings on the theme of emigration, he did not hide the crisis the Highlands were going through and he evoked the suffering of the inhabitants who were forced to leave the land of their ancestors.37 His style, which is redolent of the Impressionists’, suggests a sense of communion between nature and men: the human figures, barely visible, seem to be melting into the landscape, indicating both the inhabitants’ attachment to their land and the migration of the population. In The Emigrants,38 the paint was applied with quick brush strokes and the dominance of dark tonal values to depict the sky and the sea suggest an oncoming storm; in this painting, the weather effects can be considered as a reflection of the distress and suffering of the people who are about to go on-board the boat.

William McTaggart, The Emigrants

William McTaggart, The Emigrants

© Tate, 2015

  • 39 The group of artists known as the Colourists was composed of four painters: Peploe, Cadell, John Le (...)

14With the paintings on the coming of Saint Columba, McTaggart celebrated a glorious event in the history of the Highlands, the region chosen to be the centre of Scottish Christianity. These works remind us that the west and north coasts of Scotland played an essential role in the country’s history as, in the sixth century, it was from the island of Iona that Christianity spread across the Scottish territory. McTaggart’s landscapes profoundly influenced the following generation of painters, and following his example, Samuel John Peploe (1871-1935) and Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell (1883-1937), two members of the group known as The Colourists, executed numerous Highland coastal landscapes.39 Together, between 1920 and 1935, Cadell and Peploe went almost every year to paint on Iona. Their landscapes are now some of the most famous works by Scottish painters; unlike McTaggart, these two artists did not make any obvious reference to historical events in their works but a link can be drawn between Saint Columba and Iona. Like McTaggart, they were interested in exploring the effects of light on landscape and they used a rich colour palette. In the twentieth century, apart from David Young Cameron (1865- 1945), Scottish artists no longer painted in the style of McCulloch; from McTaggart onwards, when they have been representing Highland landscapes, painters have generally preferred painting seascapes, in most cases bright and colourful views as can be noticed with the works of Stanley Cursiter (1887-1976), William Gillies (1878-1973), Sir William MacTaggart (1903-1981) – grandson of McTaggart – Wilhelmina Barns Graham (1912-2004) and James Morrison. Nowadays, artists such as Briony Anderson (1982-) and Will Maclean still continue to produce works in the artistic lineage of McTaggart. Professor MacDonald wrote that in Emigrant Ship,

  • 40 Murdo Macdonald, ‘The Art of An Leabhar Mòr and the Art History of the Scottish Gaidhealtachd’, pap (...)

Will Maclean brings the Croick Church window image together with a graffiti image of an emigrant ship scratched on the wall of a deserted schoolhouse in a cleared settlement in Mull. But Maclean takes things further, for reflected in the window is another emigrant ship, this one firmly embedded not only in Highland history but in the history of Scottish art, for it refers back to a series of emigrant ship paintings made by William McTaggart in the 1890s. Thus Maclean invokes the history of Scottish art in his exploration of Highland issues.40

  • 41 Maclean and Anderson have executed several works devoted to the Highland Clearances. See Maclean’s (...)

15Unlike McTaggart’s paintings which did not challenge the pro-unionist identity, the works of contemporary artists, such as the paintings and installations by Maclean and Anderson,41 as well as those of Ross Sinclair (1966-) and Calum Colvin, among others, have been questioning the notion of “Scottishness” since the 1980s and have been calling for a redefinition of a Scottish identity.

16Since Scottish painters started to draw their inspiration from the Highlands, Highland landscapes have occupied a central place in Scotland’s artistic expression. As the study of a few works has revealed, the pictorial representation of Highland landscapes has greatly evolved between the first landscapes painted in the eighteenth century and the beginning of the twenty-first century. The novels and poems by Walter Scott and the definition of a new Scottish identity in the first half of the nineteenth century have contributed to the Scottish painters’ interest in Highland landscapes and have determined the way they have represented Highland scenery. McCulloch and McTaggart’s paintings offered two very different images of the Highlands, the former representing wild mountain landscapes populated with deer or sheep and the latter showing seascapes suggesting the suffering of the inhabitants who had been forced to leave the land of their ancestors. Of all the paintings by artists who specialized in Highland views, McCulloch and McTaggart’s works had the greatest influence on the way Scottish artists have painted these landscapes. The representation of Highland landscapes has evolved with Scottish identity; for a long time, Highland views have symbolized the core values of the pro-unionist identity and, if since the 1970s this identity has no longer been valid, the Highlands still continue to inspire Scottish painters.

Notes

1 This research project was carried out between September 2005 and March 2011. According to Dundee University website, this interdisciplinary ‘project was driven by three strands of activity: rethinking of the history of visual art in the Highlands and Islands; the making of contemporary art in a Highland or Highland-related context; and the exploration of the visual in Gaelic language. The cross-disciplinary team investigated the visual within Gaelic culture, through art history, visual art practice and language. The project aims were to contribute to the development of Gaelic visual and cultural studies, and to increase the knowledge and awareness necessary to underpin cultural sustainability’. Dundee University, <http://www.dundee.ac.uk/djcad/research/researchprojectscentresandgroups/windowtothewest/[accessed 25 February 2015]. As part of the project the symposium entitled ‘State of the Art: Visual Tradition and Innovation in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland’ was organized at the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, from 24 to 26 June 2010.

2 ‘From the Land: Clearance, Conflict and Crofting’ was held at An Lanntair, Stornoway from 26 July 1986 to 29 September 1986; ‘ “Gaidhealtachd” anns na h-Eileanan “Highland” in the Islands - Part II’, took place from 14 April to 11 May 2008, at An Lanntair, Stornoway; the exhibition ‘Window to the West: the Rediscovery of Highland Art’, was held at the Edinburgh City Art Centre from 20 November 2010 to 6 March 2011.

3 A capriccio is a painted or drawn composition combining real and imaginary architectural features in a fantasy setting.

4 James Norie and John Griffier II, A View of Taymouth and Loch Tay, 1733 and 1739, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

5 Robert Norie, Landscape with Shepherds and a Fisherman, 1741, collection of the Duke of Hamilton.

6 James Holloway, ‘The Norie Family’, Scottish Masters, 20 (Edinburgh: The National Galleries of Scotland, 1994), p. 14.

7 According to Holloway ‘the Norie family ran the most successful decorative painting business in Scotland in the eighteenth century’. Holloway, p. 4.

8 On the life and work of Alexander Runciman see Duncan Macmillan, ‘The Earlier Career of Alexander Runciman and the Influences that Shaped His Style’, 2 vols (unpublished PhD thesis, Edinburgh University, 1973). On More’s career and work see Patricia R. Andrews, ‘Jacob More 1740-1793’, 2 vols (unpublished PhD thesis, Edinburgh University, 1981).

9 Reynolds’s impression was recorded by a Scotsman called Irvine in 1781: ‘my Countryman More comes the nearest to Claude of any painter I know. – Sir Joshua bought two paintings by him lately at an Auction & gave more than the original price. He admires them very much I hear & says More is the best painter of air since Claude’. Quoted in Patricia R. Andrews, ‘Jacob More: Biography and a Checklist of Works’, The Walpole Society, 55, (1989-90), p. 150. On Reynolds’s admiration see also David Irwin, ‘Three Foaming Cataracts. The Falls of Clyde’, Country Life, 161 (1977), p. 1168.

10 Alexander Runciman, A View Near Perth, Landscape from Milton’s ‘L’Allegro’, 1773, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

11 Charles Steuart, Loch Tay and Ben Lawers from the Park at Taymouth, c. 1760, private collection.

12 The etcher John Clerk of Eldin (1728-1812) who visited the Highlands in 1769, 1776 and 1779, made several etchings representing a castle in a Highland landscape. On John Clerk of Eldin’s etchings see, Geoffrey Bertram, ‘The Etching of John Clerk of Eldin’, Lecture for the Old Edinburgh Club, 21 November 2012. <http://www.clerkofeldin.com/pdf/The-Etchings-of-John-Clerk-of-Eldin-OEC-Lecture.pdf> [accessed 25 February 2015].

13 David Allan, The Fourth Duke of Atholl and His Family, 1780, The Blair Charitable Trust, Blair Castle.

14 David Allan, The Highland Wedding at Blair Castle, 1780, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

15 Alexander Nasmyth, Loch Awe, c. 1785, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven. Nasmyth was the first Scottish artist specializing in landscape paintings who was able to live from his art in Scotland. For the life and work of Alexander Nasmyth see Janet Cooksey, Alexander Nasmyth H.R.S.A. 1758-1840. A Man of the Scottish Renaissance (Scotland: Paul Harris Whittingehame House Publishing, 1991).

16 Alexander Nasmyth, A Distant View of Stirling, c. 1827, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

17 The picturesque is a ‘descriptive term that was formulated into an aesthetic category in late eighteenth-century Britain, with particular application to landscape scenery, landscape painting and garden and park design. The leading characteristics of picturesque landscape are irregularity roughness and variety, and the more wild areas of the British Isles, which it was then thought best exhibited such characteristics, were frequently visited and minutely examined by those tourists who followed the cult of the Picturesque’. ‘Picturesque’, The Dictionary of Art, 24 (London: Macmillan, 1996), p. 740.

18 On Hugh William Williams’s life and work see Rebecca Bodmer, ‘Hugh William Williams 1773-1829’ (unpublished Master’s thesis, Edinburgh University, 1974) and Joseph Rock, ‘The Life and Work of Hugh William Williams [1779-1829] Set within a Scottish Context. With a Catalogue of Works in Public Collections and a Catalogue of all Known Prints by and after the Artist’, 2 vols (unpublished PhD thesis, Edinburgh University, 1996).

19 In Western Europe landscape painting became a genre in its own right during the Renaissance. According to Malcom Andrews, ‘it was in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries that landscape assumed a more independent role in paintings and in some few cases seemed to have become almost wholly emancipated as a genre. […] Landscape in this period has conventionally only a supplementary role to play, it is marginal to the main human or divine subject, it is parergon to the Argument. It occupies a low status in a hierarchy dominated by the human presence.’ Malcolm Andrews, Landscape and Western Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 28.

20 James Holloway, Patrons and Painters: Art in Scotland 1650-1760 (Edinburgh: Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1989), pp. 63-64.

21 Sir John Clerk of Penicuik wrote in 1739 after a Highland tour: ‘from Dalwhinny, about 10 or 12 miles we came to Riven [Ruthen, near Kingussi] in Badenoch. By the way all along from the Blair [sic] to this place I cou’d see nothing but a barbarous tract of mountains on both hands and scarse a stalk of grass to be seen. Neither were there fowls or birds of any kind to entertain our views as in other places southward. We saw snow in many places and were told that it always continues.’ Quoted in James Holloway and Lindsay Errington, The Discovery of Scotland. The Appreciation of Scottish Scenery through Two Centuries of Painting (Edinburgh: National Gallery of Scotland, 1978), p. 3.

22 Anonymous, Lectures on the Mountains; on the Highlands and Highlanders as They Were and as They Are (London: Saunders, Otley and Co., 1860), p. 9. In a letter to his friend John Richardson, Walter Scott wrote: ‘every London citizen makes Loch Lomond his wash-pot, and throw his shoe over Ben-Nevis.’ Quoted in John Gibson Lockhart, Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott, vol. 1 (Paris: Baudry’s European Library, 1837), p. 390.

23 David and Francina Irwin, Scottish Painters at Home and Abroad 1700-1900 (London: Faber, 1975), p. 226.

24 J. Holloway and L. Errington, The Discovery of Scotland, p. 103.

25 Many nineteenth-century English painters also visited the Highlands and were inspired by landscapes. Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) and Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) travelled to the Highlands several times and painted works representing Highland views, genre scenes, sporting and animal pictures.

26 In 1760, the publication of Fragments of Ancient Poetry, Collected in the Highlands of Scotland, and Translated from the Gaelic or Erse Language by James Macpherson had aroused interest in Gaelic literature and culture.

27 Their paintings did not show Scotland’s industrial development; back in the nineteenth century, Scotland was the second most industrialized nations in Western Europe.

28 On Horatio McCulloch see Alexander Fraser, The Works of Horatio MacCulloch, R.S.A (Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot, 1872) and Sheenah Smith, Horatio McCulloch 1805-1867 (Glasgow: Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries, 1988).

29 Alexander Nasmyth, Highland Loch Scene with Castle, Boat and Figures, c. 1820, present location unknown. Horatio McCulloch, View Near Aberfoyle, 1836, private collection.

30 Marion Amblard, ‘Du Rebelle au héros. Les Highlanders vus par les portraitistes des Lowlands entre 1680 et 1827’, Études Écossaises, 11 (Grenoble: Ellug, 2008), pp. 193-205.

31 John MacWhirter, In Skye, 1869, Dundee Art Galleries and Museums, Dundee; Peter Graham, A Spate in the Highlands, 1866, Manchester City Galleries, Manchester; Horatio McCulloch, Highland Landscape with a Waterfall, c. 1835, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

32 John Knox, Landscape with Tourists at Loch Katrine, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh.

33 John Morrison, Painting the Nation. Identity and Nationalism in Scottish Painting, 1800- 1920 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press), pp. 109-10.

34 John Morrison, Painting the Nation. Identity and Nationalism in Scottish Painting, p. 149.

35 William York MacGregor, The Mill Pond, 1882, Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth; George Henry, A Galloway Landscape, 1889, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow; Edward Arthur Walton, A Berwikshire Fieldworker, 1884, Tate Britain, London; Sir James Guthrie (1859-1930), A Hind’s Daughter, 1883, The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh; On the Glasgow Boys see Roger Billcliffe, The Glasgow Boys. The Glasgow School of Painting 1875-1895 (London: John Murray, 2002).

36 The career of McTaggart has been studied in several books. See James Caw, William McTaggart (Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons, 1917); Lindsay Errington, William McTaggart, 1825-1910 (Edinburgh: National Gallery of Scotland) and Per Kvaerne, William McTaggart, 1835-1910. Singing Songs of the Scottish Heart (Edinburgh: Atelier Books, 2007).

37 McTaggart was not the only Scottish artist to evoke the Highland Clearances in his paintings it was also the case of Thomas Faed (1826-1900) who executed several paintings showing emigrants. The Last of the Clan (1865, The Fleming Collection, London) and Oh, Why Have I Left My Hame? (1887, Sunderland Museum and Winter Garden, Sunderland) are some of Faed’s most famous works.

38 William McTaggart, The Emigrants, 1889, Tate Britain, London.

39 The group of artists known as the Colourists was composed of four painters: Peploe, Cadell, John Leslie Hunter (1877-1931) and John Duncan Fergusson (1874-1961). On Peploe’s life and work see Guy Peploe, S.J. Peploe 1871-1935 (Edinburgh & London: Mainstream Publishing, 2000); for more details on Cadell’s career see Alice Strang, F.C.B. Cadell (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 2011).

40 Murdo Macdonald, ‘The Art of An Leabhar Mòr and the Art History of the Scottish Gaidhealtachd’, paper presented at the University of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, on October 13, 2009. Will Maclean, Emigrant Ship, c. 1990, Mull.

41 Maclean and Anderson have executed several works devoted to the Highland Clearances. See Maclean’s Inner Sound (1984, Raasay); see also Briony Anderson, Video Documentation 3 (Dances for Landseer) http://www.brionyanderson.com/#2006 [accessed 25 February 2015].

Table des illustrations

Titre Horatio McCulloch, Highland Landscape with a Waterfall,
Crédits © Scottish National Gallery, 2015
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufc/docannexe/image/9128/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 48k
Titre William McTaggart, The Emigrants
Crédits © Tate, 2015
URL http://books.openedition.org/pufc/docannexe/image/9128/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 50k

Auteur

Teaches at Grenoble Alpes University and is a researcher in British studies. Her research mainly focuses on Scottish painting from the 18th century onwards. She has published several articles on Scottish art and is the author of ‘The Scottish painters’ exile in Italy in the eighteenth century’ (2010) published in Études Écossaises. She has recently contributed a chapter to the book Living with Jacobitism, 1690-1788 (2014) edited by A.I. Macinnes, K. German and L. Graham. She is also a regular contributor to Scottish Art News, a magazine published by the Fleming Collection.

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