Art in the Making 1845–1885

Open daily, 10am–5pm

Admission free


In the second half of the 19th century, people became increasingly interested in how an artwork was made. The paintings in this display each reveal a different aspect of the lives and working practices of artists in the mid- to late-19th century.

With the enhanced celebrity status of artists the public wanted to find out what inspired them and how they developed their ideas. Even the studios where artists created their works attracted attention. Such behind-the-scenes information also helped to convince potential art collectors that they were making a sound investment.

The way artists presented themselves was carefully managed to ensure they were seen as skilled and knowledgeable professionals. As a result, their experimental – and messier – methods of creating art often remained hidden from view. We can now go beyond what 19th-century artists wanted us to see, thanks to greater availability of their preparatory studies and scientific techniques used to examine paintings today. This enables us to appreciate the creative methods and materials used by these artists more than ever before.

Art in the Making: Painting Colour

Scottish artists in the mid- to late-19th century shared ‘a common joy in colour’. As part of their artistic training, they were encouraged to appreciate and explore its effects. Robert Scott Lauder (1803–1869) developed his feeling for colour by studying the work of Italian Renaissance artists. Christ Teacheth Humility (1847), his most ambitious painting, here on the right, reveals how he recreated their luminous hues by building up layers of translucent, colour glazes.

At the Trustees’ Academy in Edinburgh, Lauder taught his students the importance of colour – it could be visually exciting, evoke a mood or convey a message about their subject. Each of the artists featured in this display explored these possibilities though they used very different techniques. Some applied brilliant touches of vibrant colour with very fine brushes, while others created large areas of tone using broad brushstrokes. Viewed close-up these paintings show how colour could bring what one artist described as the child-like wonder of ‘a boy looking at all the bright bottles in a sweetie-shop window’.

Event accessibility

Display accessibility

  • Large print labels
  • Wheelchair access


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Gallery facilities

Detailed information on accessibility at the National Galleries of Scotland

Our partial Changing Places toilet has all of the facilities of a full Changing Places toilet, and though the floor area meets the overall size requirement (13.54m2 minimum), it is just a little too narrow to be classed as a full Changing Places toilet.

There are a limited number of small lockers available, but there is no space to store large items of luggage.

There is limited on street parking close by including for those with a blue badge. 

  • Information desk
  • Wifi
  • Wheelchair access
  • Accessible toilets
  • Changing places toilet
  • Wheelchairs available
  • Public toilets
  • Lockers (£1/£2)
  • Baby changing facilities
  • Buggy park
  • Seating throughout
  • Bike rack
  • Café
  • Restaurant
Getting here

Getting here

The National can be found just off Princes Street in the city centre.

Getting to the main entrance of the galleries can be tricky when the Christmas Market is very busy. During these times, you can access the new Scottish galleries, the gallery shop and The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant via the National, Mound Level entrance. Ask a member of galleries staff if you need assistance.

Venue map
  • Open daily, 10am–5pm<br> 25 & 26 December: Closed<br> 1 January: Open 12noon–5pm
The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL

Related features

Related features

Peek behind the scenes to find out how our conservation team restored this huge artwork.

Restoring 'Christ Teacheth Humility'

Discover how Robert Scott Lauder’s monumental painting has been conserved.

Framing 'Christ Teacheth Humility'

The story behind how our frame conservation team conserved and restored this huge frame and researched its origins.

Friends go free

Friends go free

Become a Friend to enjoy unique access to the nation’s art collection with unlimited free entry to exhibitions, Friends-only exhibition previews and a 10% discount in our gallery shops & cafés.

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