The Queen’s Gallery present an exhibition that explores the work of Scottish Artists from 1750 to 1900 and brings together paintings, drawings and miniatures collected by monarchs from George III to Queen Victoria.
The exhibition includes the work of painters who were born in Scotland and travelled abroad, such as Allan Ramsay and Sir David Wilkie, and of those whose inspiration remained in their native land, such as Alexander Nasmyth and James Giles.
The first part of the exhibition features the two main 18th century Scottish artists who made international reputations. Allan Ramsay was born and trained in Edinburgh and continued his artistic education in Italy. He gradually established a successful studio in London as a portrait painter and was often employed to paint the Scottish nobility. In 1760, Ramsay was selected to paint the King’s state portrait became the first Scot to be appointed to the role of Principal Painter in Ordinary to His Majesty.
David Wilkie was born in Fife, and trained in Edinburgh. He gradually built a reputation in London and abroad with scenes of everyday life . His two well-known commissions , Blind Man’s Buff and The Penny Wedding, for the Prince Regent (later George IV) are featured in the exhibition with his most important royal commission, The Entrance of George IV to Holyroodhouse which recorded the King’s visit to Scotland in 1822.
The success of Wilkie and Ramsay led in the 19th century to a greater acceptance of Scottish painters and a number of these Scottish school of artists began to respond to wider interest in Scotland by painting the landscape and scenes from the literature or folklore of the nation. The interest in Scotland by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert further expanded a particular view of Scotland that was wild and dramatic. Paintings by James Giles of Balmoral in the exhibition and other drawings of highlanders in kilts illustrate the beginning of a mini industry in Scottish art. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were extensively the subject of paintings and the exhibition features some early examples of the Queen by Sir Francis Grant.
Other Scottish artists including David Roberts and John Phillip followed in Wilkie and Ramsay footsteps by travelling abroad. John Phillip painted a number of paintings in Spain, whilst David Roberts travelled to the Middle East and painted scenes of Egypt, the Holy Land, Syria and Palestine.
These two strands of Scottish artists is the focus of an exhibition that challenges some of the preconceptions of Scottish art, the cultural domination of the Victorian view of Scotland masks the reality that Scottish artists were much more diverse in their subject matter than is widely accepted. In many ways, the Victorian paintings have obscured some of the triumphs and the international reputation of Wilkie and Ramsey. This interesting exhibition explores some of the contradictions and influences connected to Scottish artists, one of the ironies of the exhibition is that royal patronage especially in the Victorian period created its own particular view of Scotland that would dominate Scottish art for decades.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Scottish Artists 1750 – 1900: From Caledonia to the Continent is shown at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace with Maria Merian’s Butterflies.
For more information or book tickets, visit the Royal Collection website here
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