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Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Best Scottish Paintings

Monarch of the Glen Landseer in the Highlands. Sir Edwin Landseer (1802-1873) was the greatest British animal painter of the nineteenth century, and for his contemporaries the greatest artist of the age. The secret of his success lay in his ability to invest the natural world with feeling and imagination, allied to brilliant descriptive powers. Landseer was born in 1802, the son of the author and engraver, John Landseer, and his wife, Jane Potts. A child prodigy, he first exhibited animal studies at the Royal Academy in 1815, when he was just thirteen. By the time of his first visit to Scotland in 1824, he had already made a name for himself with works like Fighting Dogs Getting Wind and Alpine Mastiffs Reanimating a Distressed Traveller Scotland became an inspiration for his finest works. In his paintings he caught the spirit of what it was that attracted visitors to Scotland: the wildness and splendour of the landscape, the sense of space and solitude, and the spectacle of nature red in tooth and claw. Landseer's enthusiasm for the Highlands extended to the Highlanders themselves, whose simple lives and rugged characters he so admired. His superbly detailed scenes capture the very essence and texture of Highland life and contribute to a Romantic vision of Scotland that is still with us today. In 1840, at the height of his powers, Landseer suffered a severe mental breakdown, and his later years were to be clouded by bouts of instability. In spite of this handicap, his imaginative powers showed no signs of deterioration. On the contrary, he produced some of his most memorable and moving images in the period after 1840, among them his great deer pictures. His heroic stags exhibit strength, courage, fearlessness, defiance, loyalty and endurance and none more so than the aptly named The Monarch of the Glen. Often the victims of man, they also offer inspiration to him in their character as free and sovereign creatures of the high hills, a counterpoint to the sturdy independence and bravery of the British people. Monarch of the Glen: Landseer in the Highlands.

Lovers and Other Strangers. The painter Jack Vettriano emerged form the unlikely background of the Scottish coalfields, unknown and untutored, and has seen his canvases hung in the Royal Scottish Academy. His first exhibition sold out, as did the second and he has since become Scotland's most successful contemporary artist. Vettriano's images are neo-realist, real in the sense that he portrays recognizable people in believable situations, yet heightened to that level of dramatic or romantic intensity which fuelled the fiction of the Hollywood dream factory or the novels of Raymond Chandler or F. Scott Fitzgerald. They are tales without text, storyboards about love and lust, possession and longing, pursuit and conquest. He seems to understand perfectly the stylish sexiness and intrigue that occurs when high life and low life collide. His men are predators, gamblers, hard-edged but possibly soft-centred, Bogartian in period and attitude. His women are vulnerable, pliable, probably playthings if the price is right. And beyond the implied narrative of his paintings there is a curious remembrance of times past and lost, of squandered youth on blissful beaches. Critics have linked Vettriano with the bleak paintings of Hopper, the sleazy photographs of Brassai, yet he is unique, identifiable at fifty yards. Anthony Quinn has written an elegant biographical portrait of the man from childhood to present, encompassing his family, schooling and career as well as pausing at significant moments in his career. Lovers and Other Strangers: Paintings by Jack Vettriano.

The Scottish Colourists 1900-1930. F.C.B. Cadell, J.D. Fergusson, G.L. Hunter and S.J. Peploe are now amongst the most admired of early twentieth-century British artists. Their direct contact with French Post-Impressionism and early knowledge of the work of Matisse and the Fauves, encouraged them to produce paintings which are considered some of the most progressive in British art of the early twentieth century. During their lifetime the Colourists developed an international reputation, exhibiting in Paris, London and New York as well as Scotland. Since their deaths they have often been overlooked in histories of British art, but in the last twenty years there has been a dramatic revival of interest in their work. Featuring essays describing the artists' lives and their involvement with the avant garde in Paris in the early years of the twentieth century, this book is richly illustrated with over 100 of the Colourists' most stylish and inventive paintings. The Scottish Colourists: 1900-1930.

Dictionary of Scottish Painters, 1600 to the Present. This work contains alphabetically arranged entries on some two thousand painters, both major and minor figures, who have worked in Scotland since 1600. Each artist is placed in an art historical context and given full biographical details. There is also a series of generic entries covering artistic institutions and groupings ranging from the National Galleries of Scotland and the Trustees' Academy to the Glasgow Boys and the Colourists. This edition, containing illustrations up to and including the most recent Scottish artists, Watt, Bellany, Conroy and Vettriano, is a useful reference work for collectors, dealers, galleries and museums, as well as anyone with an interest in Scottish painting. The Dictionary of Scottish Painters: 1600 to the Present.

Best Scottish Paintings. Beyond the Sun,Scotland's Favourite Paintings. For years, Scotland has nurtured the connection between literature and art. This collection adds a further dimension to this flowering connection between poetry and painting. Topping the list of Scotland's favourite paintings is Salvador Dali's Christ of St John of the Cross, but also included are poignant classics such as Avril Paton's Windows in the West and Sir Henry Raeburn's Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch. Edwin Morgan, Scotland's National Poet, was so fascinated and inspired by the paintings that he wrote a poem to honour each one. The result is a wonderfully moving collection. Beyond the Sun: Scotland's Favourite Paintings.

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