Oil Painting on Canvas, ‘A Highland Bay'
Oil Painting on Canvas, ‘A Highland Bay'

JOHN MACWHIRTER, R.A., A.R.S.A., R.S.W. (1839-1911)

Oil Painting on Canvas, ‘A Highland Bay'

c. 1880 to c. 1900 England

Offered by Baggott Church Street Ltd

£2,950 gbp
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Listing Information
The painting within its original gilt frame depicts a view across a bay and is very similar to another painting of the same size sold by Lyon & Turnbull in 2006 entitled ‘The Isle of Skye across to Lochalsh'. Each picture depicts a highland view with the artist's signature, birch trees and high hills. This painting is signed with a monogram in lower right J.MacW. These are the initials of John MacWhirter RA, RSA, who was both a prolific and popular artist and was much imitated. This painting may be by the artist or one of his contemporaries.
English, circa 1880 - 1900
Canvas Height 20” (51cm) Width 30” (76cm)
Frame H. 30” (76cm) Width 40” (101.5cm)
Stock No. 1977W
John MacWhirter was born the third of four children in Slatesford, Midlothian on 27th March 1839. At the age of 13, on the death of his father, he was forced to leave school in Colinton and was subsequently apprenticed to Oliver & Boyd, a bookseller in Edinburgh. This employment was to last a mere six months, determined, as he was, to become an artist. He was to become the youngest exhibitor at the Royal Scottish Academy when, at the age of 14 he presented his ‘Old Cottage at Braid’. He was then accepted at the Trustees' Academy and trained under Robert Scott Lauder and John Ballantyne, along with John Pettie and William Quiller Orchardson. Elected Associate Member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1867, he was to become a full Honorary Member in 1880.

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.
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Baggott Church Street Ltd

Baggott Church Street Ltd
Church Street
GL54 1BB

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