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 Book of Birds

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.

McCulloch White Horse Close

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.

Rosslyn Castle

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.

Five Ways to enjoy Scottish Landscape Artists

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.

Living Room Art

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


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.

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.

John Knox
(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.

National Gallery of Scotland

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.

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.

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.

John Duncan Fergusson

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.

Samuel Peploe

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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