The sistine madonna by Raphael

The Sistine Madonna – Raphael

The Sistine Madonna is a painting by the Italian High Renaissance artist Raphael, circa 1512–1514. It is housed in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (old masters) of Dresden, Germany.

Raphael seemed to have attained perfection in the Virgin with the Fish; however, four or five years later, he was to rise infinitely higher and display something superior to art and inaccessible to science.

It was in 1518 that the Benedictines of the monastery of St. Sixtus ordered this picture. They had required that the Virgin and the Infant Jesus should be in the company of St. Sixtus and St. Barbara. This is how Raphael entered into their views.

sistine madonna raphaelDeep shadows were veiling from us the majesty of the skies. Suddenly light succeeds the obscurity, and the Infant Jesus and Mary appear surrounded by a brightness so intense that the eyes can scarcely bear it. Between two green curtains drawn to either side of the picture, amid an aureole of innumerable cherubin, the Virgin is seen standing upon the clouds, with her son in her arms, showing him to the world as its Redeemer and Sovereign Judge. Lower down, St. Sixtus and St. Barbara are kneeling on the clouds on either side. Nothing is visible of the earth, but it is divined by the gestures and glances of the two saints, who are pointing to the multitude for whom they are imploring the divine mercy. Two angels are leaning on a kind of balustrade whose horizontal line forms a solid plane at the base of the composition. Nothing could be more elementary than the idea of such a picture; the ancient symmetry and the most rigid parallelism are scrupulously observed. Raphael becomes almost archaic, and, while returning to the simplicity of primitive traditions, by the force of genius he confounds the scientific exaggeration that is already so close to decadence. Doubtless he had raised his eyes high every time he had taken antiquity as a model, but he raised them much higher still by becoming exclusively Christian again, and by comprehending that the humblest way is not only the surest, but also the most sublime. Why is such simple means so highly successful in exalting our feelings? Why is it, when looking at this picture, we have moments of divine oblivion in which we fancy ourselves in Heaven? That is what we must try to penetrate and comprehend.

The principal figure of the picture is the Infant Jesus. He is no longer the graceful Bambino that we have so often seen in the arms of Raphael’s Madonnas, gentle and encouraging to the eyes of mankind, or again he who, ere while, in the Virgin with the Fish, leaned towards the young Tobit; it is the God himself, it is the God of Justice and of the Last Day. In the most humble state of our flesh, beneath the veil of infancy, we see the terrifying splendor of infinite majesty in this picture. The divine Infant leaves between himself and us a place for fear, and in his presence we experience something of the fear of God that Adam felt and that he transmitted to his race. For attaining such heights of impression the means employed by Raphael are of an incomprehensible simplicity. The Infant Jesus nestles familiarly in his mother’s arms. Sitting on a fold of the white veil that the Virgin supports with her left hand, he leans against the Madonna’s right arm; his legs are crossed one above the other; the whole of the left arm follows the bend of the body and the left hand rests upon the right leg; at the same time, the right shoulder being raised by Mary’s hand, the right arm is bent at the elbow and the hand grasps the Virgin’s veil. This attitude, so natural, so true, so unstudied, expresses grandeur and sovereignty. Nothing can be more elementary nor more powerful. The light rests calmly upon every part of this beautiful body and all its members in such fine repose. Humanity was never seen under such radiance. The Son of God, in transporting to Heaven the terrestrial form of his infancy, has made it divine for all eternity. Raphael doubtless owed to antiquity something of the power that enabled him spontaneously to create such a masterpiece; but in this case he has far surpassed his models, and we should search vainly in antique art for a more ideal and grand figure than that of this marvellous infant. However, hitherto we have only examined the body, what shall we say about the head to give a true idea of it? In fact, that is perhaps the most extraordinary and most indescribable part of the whole picture. The Infant Jesus seems to recoil from the spectacle of human shame; he lovingly presses against the Virgin’s breast, softly rests his forehead against his Mother’s cheek, and darts towards the world one of those flaming and terrible glances at which, it is said, everything in heaven, on earth, and in hell trembles. His disordered hair stands upright and quivers as in the breath of the tempest, and somber clouds pass across the widely modeled forehead; the brows are frowning, the pupils dilate and the flame is ready to dart forth; the eyes, profound and terrible, are preparing to flash with lightning; they still withhold it, but we feel that it may break forth, and we tremble. This glance is truly splendid; it fascinates you, attracts you, and, at the same time, fills you with terror. The lips are quivering, and, from the point of view of line, that is the great mystery, I think; the upper lip, visibly lifted on the left side, assumes a strange accent of anger and indignation. This deviation of a single feature is materially a small matter, and yet it suffices to stamp the whole countenance with irresistible action. The Infant Jesus assumes a formidable aspect; we recognize in him the Sovereign Judge; his power is infinite and one act of his will be sufficient to condemn or absolve. The Virgin of the Chair had given us a presentiment of this image in 1516; the Virgin of St. Sixtus shows it to us in 1518, in its eternal grandeur and sublime reality. But the Word of God would scarcely leave room for anything but fear, if the Virgin did not immediately come to shed hope in the soul terrified at the idea of justice.


In fact, the Virgin remains calm and serene beside her enraged son, and reassures our heart also with her confidence. If she presents the Son of God to the world under a terrifying aspect, at the same time she presses him so tenderly against her breast, and her features, under the splendor of the divine radiance, shine with such purity that we feel the flame that purifies all passing within ourselves.

The Virgin appears here like the dawning light. She advances from right to left, beautiful as the skies, light as the cloud that bears her. Her gait, or rather her flight through the air, is stamped with royal nobleness and dignity. Her right hand, raised as high as the shoulder, holds the body of Jesus under his right arm, and the Saviour lies back against his Mother’s right arm, while Mary’s left arm is placed under the Infant’s body to support and carry him. The Virgin of St. Sixtus, like every Madonna, wears a red robe and a white mantle; and Art has never done greater things with drapery with such simple elements. The mantle falls with a beautiful movement over the lower part of the body and floats in wide folds, which, while sharply defining the form and movement of the lower limbs, reveals the bare feet which are of admirable form and colour. The robe, ornamented only with a little gold embroidery on the sleeve, is of a purple tint in the shadows and becomes rose in the light; it is girdled below the breast like the antique statues, and reveals the neck as well as the top of the shoulders, which are surrounded by a veil of white gauze. A long scarf of the same colour as the veil but tinted with bistre, is placed on the crown of the head, and, distending like a sail above the left shoulder, returns to the left hand to serve as a support for the Infant, and runs along the body of Jesus, who grasps it with his right hand. The Virgin’s head appears in full illumination without any artifice, and glows solely with its own beauty. It is three quarters left, indeed almost full face, in a similar position but in opposition to the Saviour’s head, which, as we have seen, is three quarters right and almost full face also. The hair, a light chestnut, is arranged simply in smooth and flat bands lightly waved above the brow, leaving the ears, cheeks, and temples completely uncovered, and not interfering in any way with the outlines of the face. The forehead, of a medium height, presents a widely developed surface, in the centre of which glows a light that is continued down the bridge of the nose. The eyes, of irreproachable shape, are full of brilliance, and their gaze sheds over all it illumines an infinite softness mingled with an indefinable exaltation. The mouth trembles with divine emotion and seems to quiver with celestial bliss.

Another remarkable thing in this supreme manifestation of genius is that in the Virgin and the Infant, of such different, we might almost say such opposite expressions, the same features are noticeably repeated. Raphael has been faithful to the last to the system he adopted in almost his earliest pictures, and to make this intentional resemblance more noticeable here he has placed the two heads close together, and shown them almost full face, so that there shall be no distracting element; and has opposed them to each other by turning them in different ways so that they may complement each other and be reflected in one another as in a mirror. Therefore, as the same glory surrounds both Mother and Son at the same time, so the same character of beauty is found faithfully reproduced in each. The skulls of both have the same general conformation, the same intelligence shines upon the two brows, although the Saviour’s is dark and menacing whilst the Virgin’s remains radiant and clear; the eyes have also the same shape and are full of the same fire, though the glance of the one is terrible and of the other, reassuring; the mouth has the same lines, the same nobility, and the same quiver that has the power of alternately inspiring terror and tranquility; and the cleft in the chin is identical. The colour also helps to make an almost perfect unity of these two figures—we have the same white and solid flesh tints, strong and delicate; the same warm and always luminous shadows. Indeed, Jesus is confounded with Mary, so to speak, so that the two forms together make one and the same body, and, moreover, the Saviour at need may get rid of his majestic nakedness beneath the veil and in the mantle of Mary.

This Virgin, in which Raphael has surpassed himself, was painted in a moment of veritable exaltation of genius. It was not laboriously conceived; it was born of itself, spontaneously complete, like the antique Minerva, with its perfect form and beauty, and it was the recompense for an entire life consecrated without intermission to the search after nature and truth, to the study of the masters and all the traditions, to the cult of the ideal and especially of the Virgin.

After having produced so many rare masterpieces, his love and faith were carried to such a pitch of power and enthusiasm that he seemed to be borne up by them, and, suddenly penetrating into a sphere superior to all he had hitherto visited, he painted a Virgin incomparably more beautiful than all the admirable Virgins he had painted before. Not a single design, nor preparatory study, puts us on the trace of any bringing forth of any of the parts of this picture.

However, if the image of this Virgin was traced on the canvas by a hand suddenly inspired, I think that at the same time Raphael confronted his inspiration with nature, and that, whilst resolutely springing towards the infinite, he yet set himself face to face with reality. Perhaps, strictly, he would have had no need of that; he had amassed so much, his memory placed such numerous, varied, and exact documents at the service of his will, that he had only to remember in order almost immediately to produce an accomplished whole. Moreover, he had the model he wanted, possessing without dominating it; and without losing sight of his ideal, it was to this model that he applied himself for the embodiment of his idea. Thus, in the Virgin of St. Sixtus, we recognize, not the image of La Fornarina, but the transfiguration of her image. None of her features are left and yet it is she, but so purified that no trouble nor shadow comes to dim the radiant and virginal brightness of the picture. In every human creature there is a divine germ that cannot flourish on earth and whose blossoming is only in the skies; this is the flowering, the splendour of which is shown in the Virgin of St. Sixtus. We care very little about Raphael’s private life; we only affirm in the presence of his work that as a painter he did not love for this life only, and that from the beginning to the end of his career he had the respect and the taste for eternal love. Since the day when the Virgin appeared transfigured to the seer of the Apocalypse, she had never revealed herself in such effulgence. Before this picture, we lose every memory of earth and see nothing but the Queen of Heaven and of the angels, the creature elect and blessed above all creatures. In thus painting the Virgin, Raphael has almost reached the confines of divinity.

But everything in this picture is food for admiration, even the atmosphere that envelops it and those innumerable and endless legions of cherubin that gravitate around the Virgin and the Word of God. The aureole that encircles the divine group shows nothing at first but dazzling and golden light; then, as it recedes from the centre, this light gradually pales and insensibly merges from the most intense gold into the purest blue, and is filled with those heads, chaste, innocent, and fervent, that spring beneath the brush of Raphael like the flowers at the breath of Spring. These aërial creatures throng to contemplate the Virgin, and their forms recall those radiances in the shape of crowns that fill the Dantesque Paradise, making the name of Mary resound with their praises. Our eyes and mind lose themselves in the immense multitude of these happy spirits. “Number if you can the sands of the sea or the stars in the sky, those that are visible and invisible, and still believe that you have not attained the number of the angels. It costs God nothing to multiply the most excellent things, and it is the most beautiful of which he is most prodigal.” We cannot keep our eyes away from that sky; we gaze at it and love to dazzle and weary our eyes with it.

On either side of the Virgin, kneel St. Sixtus and St. Barbara. Placed also amid the clouds, but below the Madonna, they are near the sovereign mediatrix, as mediators also between the world and the Sovereign Judge. St. Sixtus is seen on the right in profile, his head is raised towards the Infant Jesus, his left hand is placed devoutly on his breast while his right is foreshortened and points towards the spectator. He wears a white rochet tied by a girdle with golden tassels, a white amice around his neck, a magnificent pallium woven with gold falling to his feet, and a long chasuble embroidered with gold and lined with red enveloping his shoulders and arms, the wide folds of which are lost amid the clouds. His head is bare, and his white tiara, adorned with the triple crown, is placed on the balustrade that runs horizontally across the base of the picture. It is impossible to find a representation of pontifical sovereignty of greater fervour, grandeur, and truth. His cranium is bald and has only a crown of grey hair remaining. His emaciated face is full of ardour and power: his eyes penetrate straight into the splendour of God; and his mouth, although partially hidden by the grey beard that covers the lower part of his face, is praying with extraordinary fervour. His gesture, so resolute and respectful, is in itself an act of love and charity, and his very hands, so true in drawing and so bold in action, have their special eloquence. It seems impossible that the divine justice will not allow itself to be swayed by such intercession.

St. Barbara is opposite St. Sixtus. Her body is in left profile, towards the Virgin, while her head, turned over her left shoulder towards the spectator, appears almost in full face. Only her left arm and hand are visible, pressed against her breast. Her left knee, directly resting upon the cloud, sustains the weight of her body; her right leg, which is raised, only touches the clouds with the foot. Her head is as beautiful, youthful, and fresh as the action of her whole figure is easy, elegant, and noble. Then where did Raphael find this serenity if not in himself? The saint, gently bending towards the earth, seems to want to receive our hopes and vows to bear them to Heaven. She is one of those virgins who are created in the image of the Virgin par excellence. Nevertheless, here she affects certain worldly appearances which, beside the severe simplicity of the Mother of the Word, establish a hierarchy between the two figures and a sort of line of demarcation that cannot be crossed. The higher we soar the more is grandeur simplified in everything.

St. Barbara’s hair is arranged with a certain elegance; it is very abundant, of an ash blonde, and forms thick waving bands that are gathered off the temples and are crossed by two white fillets, one of which crosses the top of the forehead like a diadem. Her eyes, lowered towards the earth, are perfectly beautiful; her mouth is calm and sweet; and purity shines in all her features. Her shoulders are bare, only covered with a veil of white gauze which falls down her back, passes under her arm and returns to her breast where her left hand holds it. Her robe of violet shading into a neutral tint, is only visible where it covers her leg; for a green mantle, thrown over it, envelops the body, only revealing the arm, the sleeve of which is blue on the upper arm, yellow, and slightly puffed at the shoulder, and yellow also on the forearm. All this is of a grand air and in exquisite taste. Thus draped, the figure has a charming effect which, without detracting from the religious idea, leaves room also for a more human sentiment.

Raphael, doubtless, had thought that the figures of the Virgin, the Infant Jesus, St. Sixtus, and St. Barbara would alone be sufficient for his picture; but the empty space remaining beneath the feet of the Madonna was too considerable to be filled up simply by clouds: and therefore he added that rigid and horizontal supporting bar on which two angels lean upon their elbows, contemplating the glory of the Virgin with such rapture. In fact, these angels seem to be painted as an afterthought, for, laid in with a light brush, they scarcely cover the clouds, but allow the underlying pigment to show through.

Little wings of vivid tint complete these aërial creatures, always living around Raphael and always ready to come from his brush. Although held to nature by the most intimate ties, although perhaps too familiar in attitude and manner, they are yet supernatural by the clearness of their intelligence and by the power of their admiration. We are enchanted with their candour and beauty. They are full of zeal and enthusiasm; they possess the grace of the Pagan Loves merged into Christian innocence and chastity. Their faith is as beautiful as the sky, and in loving them it is almost for God himself that we feel the love.

Such are the various parts of this work; their union forms the most sublime harmony, and each in particular brings a divine note to this celestial concert. By what process was this picture produced? We can scarcely say, so greatly does the inspiration predominate over the technique.

Raphael aimed at the sublime; and the rest was given to him as increase. The colour is just what it should be in such a subject; whilst keeping to a sweet, calm, and peaceful scale, it is resplendent with light, and we ask ourselves whether it is not the hand of an angel rather than that of a man that has been able to realize such a marvel.

The Virgin of St. Sixtus is the most beautiful picture in the world. To copy this Virgin is to attempt the impossible. Study it a hundred times and a hundred times it will reveal itself under a new aspect. It was before this picture, it is said, that Correggio cried: “And I also, I am a painter.”

The Virgin of St. Sixtus was immediately placed where it was meant to be; it was present in triumph every day for two hundred and thirty-six years at the divine sacrament; and never was a human work so worthy of that signal honour.

In 1734 the degenerate monks of St. Sixtus preferred a little gold to their inestimable masterpiece, and for a miserable sum of a hundred and some thousands of francs (110,000 to 120,000), they sold their Virgin to Augustus III., Elector of Saxony and King of Poland. That day the barbarians were not those the Italians think….

At Dresden, the Madonna was received with great pomp. Augustus III. had it brought in haste into the reception hall of his palace; as the place of honour was occupied by the throne, he, himself, seized the royal chair, and relegating it to a less conspicuous station, he cried: “Room for the great Raphael.” If this is historic, it does honor to the prince; if legendary, it is to the glory of the people whose sentiment it translates.

By F.A. GRUYER “Les Vierges de Raphaël ” (Paris).

How Italian Paintings Compare

Italian Painting

Italian Painting Renaissance art is the apogee in Italian paintings that stimulates, attracts, coaxes and cajoles the senses beyond your imagination.

Italian Paintings

It will always be a raison d’ etre of your trip to artistic delights in destination Italy. A coruscating efflorescence of style, technique and vision, Renaissance paintings borrowed heavily from the onrushing spirit of scientific enquiry during the times. The resultant cross fertilization gave birth to such inimitable elements as photographic realism, the illusion of distance and perspective. Yet, Renaissance art is only the doorway to destination Italy’s artistic delights-and missing the rest would be ill-advised.

If the source of inspiration for Renaissance was classical, visit the Hellenic fount at in Sicily and Southern Italy. The exquisite outpourings were the handiwork of Greek settlers here. Discover the classical conception of art as perfection of proportion, balance, harmony, and form in the Greek murals are in Paestum’s museum. The later Etruscan flavors superimposed on the Greek sensibilities are easily discernible in the best Etruscan art displayed in the Tuscan towns as well as the tomb paintings seen in Tarqunia in Lazio and Chiusi in Tuscany.

The rise of the eastern Roman capital in Byzantine led to an effusion of religious themes.

Its influence gradually percolated till it determined the stylization of the Italian art. Much of the symbolization – often at variance with reality -can be seen in the illustrations of biblical scenes as well as myths and pagan traditions in Ravenna

-especially at San Vitale and both Sant’Appollinare in Classe and Sant’Appollinare Nuovo, domes in Basilica di San Marco in Venice and Chiostro del Duomo di Monreale in Sicily; Il Duomo, Pisa; Bonano Pisano’s bronze Door of St. Ranieri, the 48 relief panels of the bronze doors in Basilica San Zeno Maggiore, Verona .

Italian Paintings

It is however the Byzantine mosaics that has provided the most beautiful legacy of the period ,fusing the Moorish subtleties with the western vitality to etch magic in countless monuments and churches across Italy.

Gothic paintings acquired more realism and naturalism but the features and gestures were exaggerated for symbolic or emotional emphasis.

They had to .After all, paintings in this era adorned the churches and were religious “advertisements” to pull in the masses into the world of the Lord.

The finely structured, sky piercing Gothic structures could ill afford to have painted stories that nobody understood. Giotto fathered the Gothic art , who introduced the defining characteristics of realism like depth and emotion that later gained more prominence.

You can distinguish the incipient elements of the Renaissance in such Gothic masterpieces as: Pisano Pulpits in Pisa’s Baptistry and Duomo, and in Siena’s Duomo; Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s Allegory of Good and Bad Government; Giotto fresco cycles in Assisi’s Basilica di San Francesco, Chapel of the Scrovegni, and Florence’s Basilica di Santa CroceRenaissance & Mannerism (Early 15th to Mid-17th Centuries)

Famous Italian Paintings
Renaissance art, of course, overwhelmed all. Riding on the back of heightened consciousness of the scientific nature, it was engendered by countless painters, sculptors, and architects who worked out the seeds of the inspiration and broke new grounds in realism and naturalism.

However due to the limitations of space only works by the giants can be mentioned -though every opportunity to visit any piece of Renaissance art is worth while.

Botticelli One of the early innovators her injected a badly needed realism-including linear perspective – into the painting. Experience his courtly, graceful languid style in his masterpieces like The Birth of Venus and Allegory of Spring (Florence’s Uffizi.)

Leonardo da Vinci The many sided genius experimented so frequently with his colours -not to mention- techniques- that little of his remarkable painting survives.

But he definitely pioneered such effects as the fine haze of sfumato that lends a diffused perspective to the character. Its incredible glory of this effect can be experienced first hand in the fresco of The Last Supper (1495-97) and his earlier Annunciation (1481) in Florence’s Uffizi.

Raphael The consummate craftsman produced an impeccable oeuvre that inspired every painter that came later. While his Madonnas and papal portraits in Florence’s Uffizi ,Palazzo Pitti and in Rome’s National Gallery of Ancient Art amaze you with detailing , the ethereal Transfiguration (1520), is in the Vatican Museums is uplifting.

Mona Lisa

Michelangelo Perhaps the world’s greatest artist, he enjoyed a love hate relation ship with the pope .He worshipped the androgynous form and his depiction of the male body showed every strained sinew , every bone in an emaciated body and every line of expression in a face full of emotion.

Get swept of your feet by Mannerism in his magnum opus – the Sistine Chapel frescoes. The powerful Moses on the tomb of Julius II, as well as his works for Medici family tombs in Florence’s Medici Chapels, incorporating Dawn, Dusk, Day, and Night (1531-33) are breathtaking .And you haven’t even begun to glimpse his sculptural masterpieces!

In Baroque, the opulent is extravagantly grandiose and rises to an ecstasy of decorative expressions. It’s an impossible effusion of exaggerated light and dark tones called chiaroscuro.

Dynamic fury, movement, color, and figures move together in an implosion of forms that alas lacks the integrality of a soul. The rococo is even more over the top.

Caravaggio was its supreme exponent and his St. Matthew cycle in Rome’s San Luigi dei Francesi, a series of paintings in Rome’s Galleria Borghese, the Deposition (1604) in the Vatican Museums will remain etched in your mind’s eye , long after you return from destination Italy.

Modern Italian Paintings

Italy had very few artists of international repute after these.

Art Insurance – Insuring your paintings


Of course no blog or article that discusses valuable and beautiful paintings can ignore Insurance. This article below really got me thinking about insurance of my prized possessions and the best way to go about it.

“The Scream” and “Madonna,” two major paintings by famous Norwegian artist Edvard Munch, were stolen several years ago from the Munch Museum in Norway by armed robbers in broad daylight. In 1990, approximately $300 million worth of art was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, including a Rembrandt and a Vermeer. The significance of these art thefts is notable, but what’s really shocking is that in neither case was the art insured against theft (although it was insured for fire and water damage, for restoration costs that would be incurred to repair the paintings if they were damaged). According to a BBC news story at the time of the Munch theft, John Oyaas, managing director of the Munch Museum said of the two stolen paintings, “They are not replaceable so you can’t buy ‘The Scream’ on the street and put a copy up there. The focus is on other issues than insuring them. To a certain extent this is common practice because these items aren’t replaceable.”

click here to continue reading the article – written by Alan Bamberger

Of course the above article really talks about art galleries and the costs and difficulties of insuring priceless and irreplaceable paintings. However (albeit on a smaller scale) I am sure you have paintings that whilst may not have cost millions of pounds, will be irreplaceable in the event they are stolen or damaged in a fire. Even if the cost is only in the £1,000’s you can ill afford to lose that much money, not to mention the sentimental value. talks about this type of cover in more detail here

So what are the options for insuring paintings?

Home Insurance

The vast majority of us will assume that our home insurance will automatically cover our valubles, which include antiques, fine art etc. This is not always the case, because Home Insurance Policies have valuables and fine art and antique limits, which they are not prepared to exceed. You could find in a standard home insurance policy that the limit could be as low as £5,000. If you have several valuable paintings, you could need four or five times that amount.

Even specialist “High net Worth” Home insurance policies have valuables limits, although these can be increased to accomodate most valuable collections.

The other problem with a home insurance is how much you end up getting paid in the event of a total loss, or for the cost of restoration. You might have an idea of how much you think the painting is worth, but the Insurance Loss adjust might argue differently and you could spend alot of time and stress arguing over a settlement.

Specialist Art Insurance

There are companies who specialise in insurance for fine art, furniture, glass, muscial insturments and precious metals.

They will have available specialist valuers who can provide a full valuation of the items you wish to insure. Some policies even offer a complete home appraisal service at the inception of the policy.

Agreed Value

Once you have a valuation of your collection it also means that the item is covered for a pre-agreed value and there is no ambiguity in the event that the item is stolen or damaged (or no arguing with a loss adjuster!)

Most specialist policies will cover the item for any loss in value (depreciation) in the event of an insured claim following restoration, something a standard household insurance will not do.

Finally most specialist insurance policies will appreciate that you might exhibit or lend your painting to a gallery or exhibition – it is usually possible to extend the policy cover under these circumstances.

If you have a large and valuable collection it is certainly worth obtaining quotes from a specialist art insurance company, just for peace of mind! For more information go to

The Scottish Colourists: Post-Impressionist Brilliance

Scottish Colourists

In the 1920s, a group of four Scots artists exhibited together for the first time. This group, known as the Scottish Colourists, were famous for their loose handling of paint and for their strong colours.

The influences of the Scottish Colourists

They were influenced by both the Fauvism movement and by the artist Matisse. Their art was never too highly regarded by critics; however, they were instrumental in furthering the Glasgow School of Painting’s response to the Post-impressionism movement.

The French effect

All four of the Scottish colourists spent time working and living in France prior to World War I. The four artists, Francis Campbell Boileau Cadell, Samuel John Peploe, George Leslie Hunter, and John Duncan Fergusson formed the group early on.


The name the Scottish Colourists was popularized by the 1950 book by T.J. Honeyman, “The Three Scottish Colourists”. This was a critique of Cadell, Peploe, and Hunter. The fourth painter, Fergusson was added to the group later on.

How they became Scottish art favourites

The Scottish Colourists were popular in Scottish Art during the 1920s and 1930s, though they fell out of favour in the 1940s. Many of their paintings were of landscapes, which fell out of fashion during the 1940s, 50s, 60s and most of the 70s.


In 1980, they were rediscovered and regained popularity through the later twentieth century. A still life by Peploe sold for one million pounds in 2011 setting a record for a work by a Scottish painter.

Their landscape work

(c) Perth & Kinross Council (Mrs Jenny Kinnear) SINGLE CONSENT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Perth & Kinross Council (Mrs Jenny Kinnear) SINGLE CONSENT; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

All four of the artist dabbled in landscapes. The biggest body of Scottish landscape pieces were produced by John Duncan Ferguson. He painted bold pieces that focused on trees and water.

Francis Cadell is also well known for his series of landscape paintings. He started painting the series on the Inner Hebridean island of Iona. This series attracted the attention of art critics because of the way he captured the unique Scottish light. Again, many of his pieces featured water, as you would expect for an artist based on an island the sea played a big role in many of his paintings.

Scottish Colourist George Leslie Hunter exhibition at City Art Centre
Scottish Colourist George Leslie Hunter exhibition at City Art Centre

Where to experience the work of the Scottish Colourists

In November 2012, an exhibit of work by the Scottish Colourists opened in Edinburgh Scotland at the National Gallery of Art. Their work is also on display in Scotland at the University of Stirling, the Aberdeen Art Gallery, The Kirkcaldy Museum and Art Gallery, the J.D. Fergusson Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery.

Individual Styles

While considered as an artistic group, each of the Scottish Colourists had their own individual style. Each had a specific artistic focus and personality. They did not work as a group, preferring to work individually. While immensely popular in modern circles, none of the Scottish Colourists was featured in the Post-Impressionist exhibits arranged by art critic Roger Fry in 1910 and 1912 at the Grafton Galleries in London.

francis campbell

The Scottish Colourists’ first significant gallery showing was the 1924 exhibit held at the Barbazanges Gallery located in Paris.

george leslies hunter painting

Most known for introducing the Post-Impressionist movement to Scotland, since the work of the Scottish Colourists was primarily done while the artists were living in France, the Scottish Colourists provided a direct link between the art of Scotland and the Ecole de Paris.

How to Learn More about 18th Century Scottish Landscape Paintings

Jacob More

Throughout history, landscape paintings have been some of the most treasured and cherished artwork of all time. Capturing the beauty and depth of the surrounding landscape on canvas takes a keen eye and an appreciation for beauty.


While landscape painters have hailed from all parts of the world, Scotland has had its fair share. If you are interested in Scottish history and art, it is well worth taking the time to explore some of the country’s most famous landscape artists including Jacob More, Alexander Nasmyth, John Knox and Alexander Runciman.
If you want to delve deeper into the history of 18th Century Scottish landscape painters, there are a number of resources that can help. Here are just a few of the ways that you can discover more about the artists of this period:

Online Research

The Internet has made it easier than ever to find information on just about any subject that you can imagine, including Scottish painters. A few simple searches using appropriate keywords can connect you with a number of different websites that showcase the work of landscape painters from this time.

Most of these sites provide a small amount of personal history for each artist as well as examples of their work. Just be sure to use trusted sources for your research.

You can find literally hundreds of copies of the work of the Scottish landscape painters on the BBC website. They have set up comprehensive slide shows of the work of all of the biggest landscape painters from Scotland. On this site you can see more than 200 examples of the work of artists like John Duncan Ferguson.

(c) Jack Knox, RSA, RSW, RGI, HFRIAS, D.Litt; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
(c) Jack Knox, RSA, RSW, RGI, HFRIAS, D.Litt; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Visit your Local Library

Most libraries have in-depth art history books that can give you a broad overview of Scottish painting. If you need more detailed information, you may even want to consider visiting the library of a university in your area. Often colleges and universities have a better selection of art history books to choose from, which can help you find more facts about painters from the 1700 and 1800s. They have rarer and older books that covered these artists in more detail than some of the more recent art books do.

Visit the National Galleries of Scotland

While it may not be practical for everyone, nothing beats a trip to the National Galleries of Scotland to view the artwork in person. By standing face-to-face with the landscape paintings of artists from this time period, you can get a glimpse into what their world was like. Nothing allows you to learn more about a particular artist than viewing their work. Every brushstroke tells a story, allowing you to get to know the artist in a way that would be impossible just by reading about them.


These are just a few of the ways that you can learn more about 18th Century Scottish landscape painters. By taking the time to conduct thorough research, you can get a true sense of what it was like to be a part of the art world during this period of history.

Five Ways to enjoy Scottish Landscape Artists

Landscape Prints

Five Ways to Enjoy the Work of the Scottish Landscapists

The Scottish landscape is quite unlike any other. A combination of a unique climate and geology has produced a landscape quite unlike any other in the world.

Most of the people who visit Scotland are there to see the countryside rather than anything else. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people from across the world flood in to see the Lochs and mountains of Scotland. Many of them return year after year to see more. It seems that once you have the bug you simply cannot get enough of the Scottish countryside.

This has resulted in a new wave of demand for the work of the famous landscape artists of Scotland like Knox, Ferguson and Nasmyth. If, like me, you love Scottish landscape paintings here are a few ways you can indulge that love and enjoy them every day.


1. Prints with a twist

Ok, so this is an obvious one. Quite a few firms out there sell Scottish landscape prints. Many of those firms reproduce the prints in a range of different styles.

Some use specialist print techniques to produce copies of these prints with a modern twist. As an example, changing the colour palette of the painting. This produces a unique version of paintings. It is a technique that works particularly well for the landscape paintings of the famous Scottish Colourists. Ordering a print like this is a great way to get a picture of the Scottish Highlands that actually fits in with the decor of a home decorated in a modernist or contemporary style.

2. Wall stickers

If you fancy transforming a whole wall into a scene from Scotland, you can easily do so using wall stickers. Several firms sell stickers that feature Scottish scenes. Putting them up is not difficult, and if you decide you do not like the effect removing the stickers is not difficult.

3. Screensavers


There are also several screensaver packages available that feature the work of famous artists. Just look for one that includes the works of Scotland’s famous artists to find what you need.

4. Visit the sights

These are all good ways to experience the work of Scotland’s landscape painters, but for me the best way to do it is to actually visit the sights and see them for yourself. Because of the nature of the Scottish weather, the summer is definitely the time to go. If you go in the spring or autumn there is too much of a risk of the view being obscured by rain or mist.

You can do this either independently or as part of a tour. Increasingly Scottish tour operators are offering art themed packages to tourists.

See the real paintings

real life painting

While you are in Scotland, you can also see many of the original works. By far the best place to see these works is The Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. They have the biggest collection in the world.
There are also some examples of modern Scottish landscape paintings in The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art located in Princes Street, Edinburgh.

Melon Udrigle Beach


Mellon Udrigle is a beautiful golden sandy beach. You have spectacular views of the Highland Mountains.

Backed by dunes and framed by rocky promontories, this picture was definately inspired by the real thing.

Mellon Udrigle is one of the most stunning pieces of coastline in Wester Ross.

The waters are crystal clear and the beach made of bleached white sand. The beach is spectacular in itself without its stunning location. However what makes this vista and in turn the painting really special is a distant mountain vista possibly unequalled from any low level viewpoint in Scotland.

To the north east the views include the distinctive profile of Suilven, near Lochinver, taking in the mountains of Coigach, including a glimpse of the top of Stac Pollaidh. To the south east the views conclude with a glimpse of An Teallach before becoming lost in the more local humps and bumps of the peninsula you are standing on between Gruinard Bay and Loch Ewe.

The Great Scottish Landscape Painter Horatio McCulloch

Horatio mcCulloch

Horatio McCulloch was born in 1805 in Glasgow, Scotland. He had an ordinary upbringing, but from an early age displayed artistic talent.

His time with John Knox

As a young man, McCulloch was lucky enough to secure an apprenticeship with John Knox. At the time, Knox was Scotland’s number one landscape artist. Unfortunately, McCulloch only spent a year working out of Knox’s studio, but it appears he learnt a lot during that time, and he formed a strong friendship with David Macnee another young man that would later produce amazing landscape paintings.

His work as a decorative painter

Upon leaving Knox’s studio, the young artist quickly found work. For several years, he worked as a decorative painter.
One of his first commissions was to paint decorative lids for snuffboxes. Later he worked for the Edinburgh based engraver William Home Lizars. He worked as the illustrator for Prideaux John Selby during which time he painted the images of the birds and waterfowl featured in the famous British Birds book.

british birds book

His Edinburgh years

In 1825, he moved to Edinburgh and started to follow in the footsteps of Alexander Nasmyth and HV Williams. By 1827, he was ready to return to Glasgow and start his career as a landscape artist in earnest. Unfortunately, it took a while for him to find this sort of work. In the meantime, he ended up decorating public halls and working as a scene painter.

Fame and fortune in the 1830s

However, in his spare time he continued to develop his painting style. In 1829, he exhibited his first Royal Scottish Academy piece.


By 1838, his work had become widely recognised and he was a sought after artist. At that stage, he was made a full Academician of the Scottish Academy.

The silence of the highlands

One of the reasons McCulloch was such a successful landscape painter is the fact he became obsessed by the Scottish countryside, in particular The Highlands.

He once said that he was on a quest to capture the silence of The Highlands. Something he never felt he had quite achieved, so he kept on trying. The more he painted the better he got, but his quest proved elusive driving him to paint even more and become even more talented.

inverlochy castle

Summers in the West Highlands

Every summer he visited the West Highlands to sketch. Back in the studio, those sketches were transformed into paintings; so much of his work is of this area. He also spent a lot of time on Skye, where he met his wife and discovered a love of the little dogs from the area – the Skye Terriers.


Demand for McCulloch today

By the time Horatio McCulloch died in 1867, he had produced a huge body of paintings including many iconic Scottish landscape paintings. Today, his images of Cadzow Forest, near Hamilton, and views of the Clyde are exciting a new generation.

He now has fans from across the world and his pieces are in demand globally many of whom have Scottish roots. For them a McCulloch landscape captures the landscape of their ancestors, so once again his works are being bought and being hung in the homes of the rich. It is just that now most of those homes are not in Scotland.