Alexander Nasmyth

Alexander Nasmyth

Alexander Nasmyth Scottish Landscape Artist

Alexander Nasmyth was a Scottish Landscape artist who was born in 1758 and was well known for his landscape paintings, in particular for his Scottish landscapes. Many of his paintings feature important architectural points of interest, as several were painted in order to illustrate what affect a planned building would have on an area.

Nasmyth’s engineering background

He also had a very keen interest in engineering, and several ideas that he proposed were used widely in the field, although he never sought recognition or took out patents for them. However, his love of engineering did influence him. He painted in a technical way that was not common at the time he was painting.

Members of Scottish nobility employed his talents by asking him to design and improve the beautification and improvement of their estates, as he designed bridges at West Lothian, Almondell, and Tongland. He was invited to be among those who submitted proposals for the expansion of Edinburgh New Town. Some of the landscapes he painted were directly related to these projects. Sketches he made when designing these bridges were later turned into works of art.

Nasmyth’s family life

Nasmyth had six daughters, all who became artists and two sons. Patrick, his eldest also became known as a landscape artist. James Nasmyth, another son, invented a device called the steam hammer, so he inherited his father’s engineering ability. He did his own sketches, which were impress, so if he had not got the engineering bug there was a good chance he would have made a good artist too.

Capturing the unique weather of Scotland

During his lifetime, Nasmyth was dubbed, “The Father of Landscape Painting” in Scotland. His greatest works stand out with an amazing and rare presentation of the local weather conditions that makes the paintings stand out.
The style that was used by Nasmyth followed that of Claude Lorrain in the painting’s depiction of mood, colour, and the arrangement of the landscape itself. The water, trees and foreground details seems to follow that of Jacob van Ruysdael. This artist would first decide what the grand view should look like, and rather than paint an exact replica of the scene, he would add and subtract in order to come up with a harmonious view of the entire scene.

The great colourist

His unique approach to colour and its use is one reason his landscapes became so popular and still captivate modern audiences. As normal, greens, browns and russets are used for the trees and foliage in the foregrounds. But, pinks and oranges are used for his luxuriant skies and cloud formations. These colours rarely appear in the Scottish sky, but Nasmyth used them to draw people into his paintings and give a feel of the moody and dangerous feel of a Scottish sky.

Improving on nature and flattering his clients

He was often called upon by his patrons to paint a castle or a large estate with the surrounding landscape. He would often show in his paintings an improved landscape, as to how he thought things should look, and many a patron took his suggestions from his paintings.

Nasmyth died in 1840 and left behind a legacy of landscape paintings of renown, significant engineering and architectural projects, and improvements in many towns and cities, including his home city of Edinburgh.

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