The show begins in the early eighteenth century, with a rare work by the Scots-Flemish painter Henry Ferguson and a large-scale painting of Roman ruins. Comparable examples, still in situ since their commission, can be seen in Ham House, Surrey. From here the show continues through the centuries taking in major art movements as well as mavericks such as James Cowie and John Byrne who resist such pigeon holing.
The nineteenth century is comprehensively covered with a major work by Alexander Carse, a contemporary of Sir David Wilkie. A Scotch Fair details a crowded market scene set in Berwickshire. One of the artists most ambitious works produced. Victorian painters such as the Faed family, Waller Hugh Paton and Alexander Johnstone are included as well as the ever evolving William McTaggart who’s examples in the show take us from Pre-Raphaelitism to Impressionism.
A defining feature of Scottish history has been the draw of foreign lands, both for explorers and for artists seeking inspiration. Theirs was the inevitable quest of travel, to contrast the familiar and the unfamiliar, learning from what they saw and combining it with their own aesthetic. The Glasgow Boys went to Paris to study in the ateliers, where they encountered the French Realists and the Impressionists. Work by W Y Macgregor, E A Walton, John Quinton Pringle and major work by James Whitelaw Hamilton represent this group. The Post-Impressionists and Fauves drew the Scottish Colourists to live and work in the South of France: Fergusson’s images of Cassis and Dinard illustrate this. And there are those painters who travelled around Europe and whose palette, technique or subject was forever changed on return to their native Scotland – Anne Redpath for example. And then there are also, of course, those painters whose subjects rarely, if ever, leave British shores: Sir William Gilles, James McIntosh Patrick, Robert MacBryde, Joan Eardley or – one of Scotland’s most respected living artists – John Byrne.