Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Scottish portrait artists

I made a note of the Artists mentioned in the Peter Capaldi programme about Scottish portrait artists - A Portrait of Scotland (which is being repeated EARLY on Friday - see details see below) and also made notes about some of the things which were said in the programme.
A Portrait of Scotland BBC4 Friday 11 September 12:40am - 2:10am (VIDEO Plus+: 36516966)
Repeat, Subtitled, Widescreen, Deaf-signed

Actor Peter Capaldi explores the story of Scotland's art, examining the paintings and artists that have made Scottish art special. Capaldi sketches some of the most important Scottish portraits, and by focusing on the tradition of portraiture that goes back 500 years, he shows how Scotland's art has reflected the changing face of the nation.

A Hinds Daughter by Sir James Guthrie
Oil on canvas; 91.50 x 76.20 cm
National Galleries of Scotland

Capaldi introduced the programme by indicating that the importance of portraiture in Scottish art stems from the fact that on the 11th May 1559, John Knox, leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland, outlawed the making of all religious images - and the market for religious paintings immediately died.

Portraiture, he suggested became the perfect art form for a new way of thinking - which emphasised the importance of the individual.

A lot of the works he introduced to those of us watching the programme now live in the Scottish national portrait Gallery which as the very first purpose built portrait gallery in the world.
Allan Ramsay - self portrait
  • Sir Henry Raeburn(Scottish, 1756 - 1823) - works in the National Galleries of Scotland. Raeburn is perhaps best known as the man who painted The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch (sometimes known as The Skating Minister); ; Gracefield Permanent Collection
The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch
by Sir Henry Raeburn
The Glasgow Boys introduced forms of Impressionism to Scotland in the 1880s and 1890s, developing their own individual interpretations of it, often highly coloured. As well as painting in Glasgow and its environs they sought scenes of rural life and character in other parts of Scotland. Principal members of the group included Joseph Crawhall, Sir James Guthrie, George Henry, EA Hornel, Sir John Lavery and EA Walton.
Tate Glossary - The Glasgow School
My one comment about the list is that it does provide a great overview of Scottish portrait painters - but not Scottish art.

I know I didn't manage to write down every name - however it did become very clear while watching that it's also a VERY masculine list and frankly Scotland also produces an awful lot of very good women painters - such as Anne Redpath 1895 -1965, Elizabeth Blackadder, Barbara Rae, Alison Watt (interviewed in the programme). The latter features in the programe commenting on the brushwork and style of Raeburn.

Making a Mark reviews......


  1. Katherine,
    I LOVE the painting of The Reverend Robert Walker Skating by Sir Raeburn. First of all I love the idea of a minister skating and the fact that he's obviously enjoying himself yet he's in such somber clothing.

    I know that was the fashion at the time but looking at the painting in our ear it just makes it more delicious.


  2. Hi Cindy - everybody seems to love that painting. I think maybe because it's slightly surreal for all the reasons you identify.

  3. Thanks for this enlightening survey of the Scottish artists. Of course, I looked at the women first and I do appreciate your attention to including those who have been historically overlooked.These posts have been delightful. Makes me want to see some of the paintings in real life.

  4. Loved the program as well (sadly missed the Scottish colorist. Tought me a great deal about my heritage as well as highlight my unforgivable cultural lacking in Scottish art. Great article. Thank you!

  5. Great Documentary film, recommended by you - thank you.
    Now who remembers (or shall I watch it all over again :D) who painted that full frontal portrait of an eldery work man? They talked about bigger brushmarks for the distance and smaller ones for close-ups.
    Anyone know? Thnks!


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