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.
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.
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.