Scottish Paintings: Old Masters to Contemporary (2 stars)

This article is from 2009.

Scottish Paintings: Old Masters to Contemporary

Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823), Mr George Abercromby of Tullibody, Clackmannanshire

Great works undermined by staid and debilitating presentation

This closed and muted historical survey covers a time span of around 400 years and reaches from the dark, still-life ages of William Gow Ferguson in 1632, to the rarely exciting contemporary abstract paintings of Callum Innes. Chronicling Scottish variations on the likes of impressionism and expressionism, and of course, presenting the influences of the colourists and the Glasgow Boys, this typically taut selection – incidentally in which two female artists are represented out of a selection of 15 – leaves you wanting.

Sir Henry Raeburn’s late 18th century ‘Portrait of Mr George Abercromby’ takes pride of place in the gallery. Collapsed, greying and introspective, while the work is a fine depiction of the ageing gentlemen, it is undoubtedly the dourest image of this year’s Festival. Following Raeburn in this golden line of painterly inheritance are Sir David Wilkie, William Dyce, the pre-Raphaelite influenced William McTaggart, his Glasgow Boy comrade Joseph Crawhall, and colourist-influenced artists Fergusson and Milne. Outliers to this lineage include Charles Oppenheimer, famous for his relationship to the Kirkcudbright landscape, heir to the Colourists Anne Redpath, distinguished for her still lifes, and the marvellous Joan Eardley, marked by her shocking interest in poverty and youth.

The inclusion of a semi-sculptural fibreglass Boyle Family relief from the late 1970s ‘World Series’ is a real treat, although the deliberate and provocative nature of its inclusion here truly grates. These are incredible works, so why couch them in such a staid and debilitating narrative?

Bourne Fine Art, 557 4050, until 5 Sep (not Sun), free.

200 Years of Scottish Painting

  • 2 stars

For a small country, and one whose national school was late in developing, the history of Scotland’s visual arts is particularly rich and diverse. Each generation produced artists from the front rank, from the 17th century Scottish artist William Gouw Ferguson, domiciled in the Low Countries and Sir Henry Raeburn…

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