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The Scottish School of Painting
By William D. MaKay, R.S.A. (1906)


In undertaking the preparation of a volume on the Scottish School of Painting for “The Library of Art,” two courses were open. Scottish painting might either be followed in detail from George Jamesone till the present day; or, by giving its true interpretation to the phrase “school of painting,” and beginning with Raebum, attention might be concentrated on a much shorter period. A further limitation might be effected by stopping short at a date sufficiently removed from us to be free from the difficulties which attend the consideration of contemporary art.

In the main, I have adopted the latter alternative; but a glance has been taken in the preliminary chapters at the forerunners of the school, and, in the last, in a more cursory way, at its later developments. Even thus restricted, the material has been too full for the limits of a volume forming one of a series, to which it must necessarily conform; and various matters, which might very well have found a place in the art annals of the period, have not been entered on. Art-training, and the formation of the Scottish National and Municipal Collections have only been indirectly alluded to—chapter six having been so cut down as almost to belie its title—whilst from the same cause those dealing with art life in Scotland during the thirties—its relations and contrasts with that of other countries—and about the middle of the century, have been withheld.

From the appearance of Village Politicians in 1806, Wilkie has enjoyed a world-wide reputation. Within the last twenty years the same may be said of Raeburn, and for about the same time contemporary Scottish painters have been favourably known in most European and American art centres; but the men who kept alive painting in the north during the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century have received scant recognition. If something has been added to what has already been done by Sir Walter Armstrong, Mr. Brydall, and one or two others, to call attention to the strong portraiture of the successors of Raeburn, and the no less remarkable figure and landscape work of the painters who continued the tradition of Wilkie and Thomson, I shall feel amply rewarded.

A professional artist, when he deals with painting, is naturally prone to dwell much on its technical aspects. I claim no exemption from this tendency; but I hope it has not been carried so far as to go beyond the interest and easy comprehension of the general reader. In the scheme adopted, biographical details have been, as much as possible, avoided, and the work, rather than the lives of the painters has been considered. A table has, however, been added as appendix, giving information as to place and date of birth and death, where the painters studied, and where they practised.

I gladly take this opportunity of thanking those to whom I have been indebted for valuable assistance in the preparation of this volume. To the Hon. Board of Manufactures and the Corporation of Glasgow, for permission to reproduce many valuable works in the National and National Portrait Galleries of Scotland, and in the Kelvingrove Museum; to the Curators and attendants of those galleries for unfailing courtesy in supplying information concerning pictures under their charge; to the Secretary of the Albert Institute, Dundee, for facilitating access to the many works of art in Dundee and its neighbourhood; my thanks are especially due. To the Royal Company of Archers; the Merchant Company of Edinburgh; and to the Trustees of the late Patrick Allan Fraser, Hospitalfield, Arbroath, and to the Art master there; I am indebted for similar favours. I desire also to express my obligations to the numerous noblemen, ladies, and gentlemen whose collections have likewise been placed at my service, and without whose kind assistance it would have been impossible adequately to represent, or become acquainted with, the works of Scottish painters.

It may be mentioned that, to avoid the continual repetition of the full official titles, the Scottish National and National Portrait Galleries are sometimes referred to as The Mound, and the Queen Street Galleries. Similarly, the Glasgow Corporation’s collection at Kelvingrove, and the National Gallery of British Art, are often called the Kelvingrove and Tate Galleries respectively.

Wm. D. McKay.

Edinburgh, February 28, 1906.


Chapter I. Introductory
Chapter II. The Forerunners
Chapter III. Later Eighteenth-Century Painters
Chapter IV. Raeburn, 1756-1823
Chapter V. Wilkie, 1785-1841
Chapter VI. Art Training and Exhibitions in Edinburgh
Chapter VII. Successors of Raeburn
Chapter VIII. Wilkie’s Contemporaries
Chapter IX. Social and Artistic Life in Edinburgh, 1773-1823
Chapter X. Landscape
Chapter XI. Duncan, Harvey, R. S. Lauder
Chapter XII. David Scott and William Dyce
Chapter XIII. David Roberts and the Successors of Thomson
Chapter XIV. John Phillip and James Drummond
Chapter XV. Later Landscape
Chapter XVI. Minor Portraiture and Miniature Painting
Chapter XVII.. Sir J. Noel Paton and W. B. Scott
Chapter XVIII. The Young Men of the Forties
Chapter XIX. Later Developments
List of Painters

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