Scotland's Art | In Focus

In this series devoted to Scottish Art, we look at paintings by some of the nation’s finest artists. We examine them to uncover what makes each work so special and reveal some of the stories behind them.

The Mysterious Garden by Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh

Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh was one of the key figures in the emergence of the ‘Glasgow Style’ in the 1890s. In her work, The Mysterious Garden, 1911 we see an ethereal figure, adrift in slumber. Margaret's otherworldly aesthetic was shared with her sister Frances, and their respective husbands Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Herbert MacNair, earning them the nickname the 'Spook School' in the British Press.

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Master Baby by William Quiller Orchardson

Master Baby, 1886 is one of William Quiller Orchardson’s most celebrated artworks. Known for his suspenseful portrayal of scenes from history, literature and contemporary high society, this painting represented a new direction for the artist. Here, he captured a tender moment shared between his wife Ellen and their infant son Gordon. This painting required all of Orchardson’s skill and experience as an artist to overcome the challenges of creating a large-scale oil painting that appeared completely spontaneous.

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Saint Bride by John Duncan

John Duncan was a leading artist in the Celtic Revival movement in Scotland. Inspired by ancient lore and the unique landscape of the Hebridean Isles, Duncan created works showcased his highly original vision of Scottish culture. Here, in one of his most celebrated paintings, we witness a coming together of Celtic and Christian tradition as the figure of Saint Bride is miraculously transported across the Hebridean sea to Bethlehem.

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Reverend Robert Walker by Henry Raeburn

Henry Raeburn’s well-known portrait, popularly known as The Skating Minister has become an icon of Scottish art. The painting is consistently sought out by gallery visitors, keen to see this small image in person. Take a look at how this charming painting has captured our attention and how today he continues to appeal to audiences around the globe.

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The Indian Rug (or Red Slippers) by Anne Redpath

Anne Redpath created vivid, richly coloured landscapes, still-life and interior scenes. Redpath admired the French Post-Impressionist artists, such as Van Gogh and Gauguin, and also Matisse. The mixture of her appreciation of French art, and her time in the Scottish Borders are evident in The Red Slippers. The painting is one of her most well-known works. Here we take a closer look and uncover some unexpected surprises!

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In the Patio: Margaret Morris by J. D. Fergusson

Margaret Morris was the life partner of the ‘Scottish Colourist’ artist J. D. Fergusson. They shared a passion for the human form that is reflected in their art and dance collaborations. They never married but shared an exuberant and colourful life between Britain and the south of France, interrupted by two world wars. This portrait of Morris by Fergusson is reflective of the life they shared, and offers an insight into their modern, ground-breaking artistic partnership

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The Progress of a Soul by Phoebe Anna Traquair

Phoebe Anna Traquair created this series of four, richly coloured and detailed embroideries. They are based on the character of Denys L'Auxerrois from Imaginary Portraits by the English critic and writer Walter Pater and together they tell a story, The Progress of a Soul.

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Margaret Lindsay of Evelick, The Artist's Wife by Allan Ramsay

Looking at this painting you might think Margaret Lindsay lived a peaceful and rule abiding life, but the real story of Margaret Lindsay and her devotion to the painter Alan Ramsay was fraught with a drama and romance that tightly are concealed beneath this respectable image of domestic harmony.

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Pitlessie Fair by David Wilkie

This bustling market scene shows a real village in Scotland – Pitlessie in the artist David Wilkie’s home parish Cults. The painting represents the beginnings of a hugely successful career. Wilkie had a flair for capturing character and went on to become one of the most prominent artists of his generation. Watch this and find where and out how it all began.

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The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Joseph Noel Paton

Fairy painting was hugely popular in the Victorian era, allowing artists to explore the magic, make-believe and mischief of an enchanted realm. Joseph Noel Paton was one of the most successful fairy painters of the day, and in this painting, he explored the scene in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where Queen Titiania’s quarrels with King Oberon

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The Storm by William McTaggart

William McTaggart’s huge painting The Storm, is a supreme example of McTaggart’s skilful brilliance as a landscape painter, a master with the brush, who could incorporate figures naturally into even the wildest environment. But it’s also an image with a strong message about the importance of community, and resilience in times of crisis.

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Edinburgh Castle and the Nor' Loch by Alexander Nasmyth

Edinburgh Castle today looks mostly the same as it did in the past, although there is no longer the putrid loch at the base of the rock. Notorious as a disposal site for rotting waste, dead bodies, and as a place for drowning witches, the Nor’ Loch as it was called is now home to a railway and public gardens. Find out more about the painting and the extraordinary artist who created it in this film.

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21 May 2021