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Oil Painting on Canvas, ‘A Highland Bay’
c. 1880 to c. 1900 England
Offered by Baggott Church Street Ltd
English, circa 1880 - 1900
Canvas Height 20” (51cm) Width 30” (76cm)
Frame H. 30” (76cm) Width 40” (101.5cm)
Stock No. 1977W
SALE PRICE: £2,360
Moving to London in 1869, MacWhirter travelled extensively throughout Europe and America from the age of 16, using inspiration from each country’s landscape within his paintings. He specialized in romantic landscapes, with a great fondness for trees, especially the silver birch, the which appeared beautifully detailed in a great many of his works. His earlier works were very much influenced by John Everett Millais and the Pre-Raphaelites with highly detailed images, but he was later to adopt a far more sweeping style. His work also has an affinity with the more romantic side of Dutch 17th century landscapes. Whilst still in Scotland, he was to illustrate two books, ‘The Postman’s Bag’ with John Pettie in 1862 and ‘Wordsworth’s Poetry for the Young’ in 1863.
MacWhirter won favour with Ruskin in 1870 with his minutely detailed botanical studies, which Ruskin compared to those of Dürer. He was to buy 25 of them for use in his teaching at Oxford. In return, Macwhirter was to be a lifelong follower of Ruskin’s theories on Contemplative Landscape – those exemplified by Turner – and applied them throughout his body of work. Of the three books he was to publish in his lifetime on painting, the one published in 1900 entitled Landscape Painting in Watercolour, John MacWhirter chose Turner and Millais upon whom to bestow his highest praise in their treatment of landscape. 'You cannot study these painters too much. Turner, for light and atmosphere, and the drawing of mountains and clouds; Millais, for everything. All his work is healthy and loveable.'
According to Konody in the Dictionary of National Biography, MacWhirter 'owed his popularity largely to the tinge of sentiment which invested his otherwise naturalistic landscapes with a certain literary significance, and which is reflected in the fanciful titles he gave to his landscapes and studies of trees.' His consistent popularity and growth in reputation enabled him to build a Renaissance palace at 1, Abbey Road, St John’s Wood in London, which was an impressive monument to his taste and income.
Becoming a member of the Royal Academy in 1893, he was to exhibit a total of 126 works there in his lifetime, 20 at the Royal Scottish Academy and extensively at other institutions such as the Royal Oil Painters Institute, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, the Royal Hibernian Academy, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour and the Fine Art Society, amongst numerous others. His paintings are in major collections worldwide, including the Tate, The Royal Holloway, University of London and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
His biographical details are available in The Dictionary of Victorian Painters by Christopher Wood, The Dictionary of British Artists, The Dictionary of British Artists by Grant Waters, The Dictionary of Scottish Painters and the Dictionary of British Watercolour Artists by Mallalieu. Bibliography M. H. Spielmann The Art of J. MacWhirter.