Daily Archives: July 4, 2014

Scottish Art – The Most Popular Pieces

With such beautiful landscapes surrounding our every moment, it’s no surprise that Scotland has a long and rich history of creating amazing art. In today’s blog we are going to look at four pieces which we feel exemplify the history and skills of Scottish artists, so join us to find out more about the pieces inspired by this wonderful country, and where you can go to see them yourself!

Stirling torcsAs with most societies, the history of Scottish art goes all the way back to prehistoric times. Though we are not as lucky as some societies to have found many paintings from this era, we do have some wonderful examples of metal work dating from the Iron Age! Among the most famous of these are the Stirling torcs – a collection of intricate gold necklaces made by twisting the metal into spirals and other patterns. These are important not only from an aesthetic standpoint, but historically as well. Of the four pieces found, only the two ribbon style necklets are confirmed to be of a design commonly known in Scotland around this time. Another, broken, torc displays an intricate beaded effect to its surface, in a pattern only previously seen in jewellery from south eastern France, but the final torc is the most visually striking of all, with eight strands of gold wire woven together and terminating in intricately stylised discs, uniquely showing influences from both Mediterranean crafts of the Bronze Age, and more traditional Iron Age elements local to prehistoric Scotland. As jewellery, these torcs may be seen simply as mundane items, but of course gold has always been regarded as precious, and the roundhouse in which the torcs were found indicates they may have been left as an offering to the gods worshipped by Iron Age peoples, so these pieces are likely to represent the best and most beautiful of what this society had to offer. These are now held in collection by the National Museum of Scotland, and while they are not always on display, similar items can be seen year round at this great treasure trove of Scottish art and life.

Read about Scottish Highland Games

Moving forward through history and away from the artistic merit of “everydayRosslyn Chapel objects”, stone carving has also been a very important part of the culture of Scottish art for a long time, especially in the context of religious art. Pictish stones and Celtic crosses with intricate knot-work are two of the best known examples of carved stones in Scotland, along with Rosslyn Chapel. The carvings all over the interior of the chapel at Rosslyn are unbelievably detailed and extensive – even if you have visited before it is practically guaranteed that a return trip will provide a whole new selection of details to pore over. Many of the designs have clear Christian meanings, such as a Nativity scene with its flight of angels heralding Christ’s birth by playing bagpipes, or a Masonic influenced depiction of Satan bound upside down – but others seem to be influenced by earlier pagan legends, such as the Green Man carvings which can be found throughout the building. The Chapel is as mysterious as it is beautiful, with carvings of American plants previously presumed to be unknown in Scotland at the time of carving in the 1400s, and strange box-like structures which have recently been posited to be a method of musical notation there is a wealth of secret knowledge here waiting to be discovered.

the penny weddingThe National Gallery of Scotland too is a wonderful place to visit to soak up some culture, with stunning art from all over the world. But it too has some particular Scottish treasures of course, among them The Penny Wedding, a painting by Alexander Carse dating from the early 1800s. This large scale painting shows a typical Scottish wedding of this time, and the artist has taken a great deal of pleasure in showing off some of the Scottish customs and everyday life at this time, such as the guests passing round a hat to collect money for the newlyweds, shepherds removing their tartan bonnets to say Grace, and exuberant country dancers in the centre of the frame. This kind of social genre of painting has provided us with a wonderful snapshot into the events of daily life in Scotland around this time of huge upheaval and change, as the rural population began to move around and city living became far more common.

Learn About Tartan Colour Meanings

Finally, let’s bring ourselves right up toVettriano, Singing Butler the present with a relatively new, but already much admired contemporary artist; Jack Vettriano. Especially beloved to us as he is after all a local lad from just up the road in Methil, Fife, Vettriano has a natural and modern style which has proven to resonate deeply with many people, even those not usually interested in art. The Art Gallery and Museum in Kirkcaldy is lucky enough to have two paintings by this modern master; a portrait of an elegant lady and a self-portrait of the artist himself. Vettriano’s early works were in fact inspired by the contents of this gallery, as it was among the only access he had to fine art as a self-taught young artist, so it is especially interesting to compare his pieces to the art surrounding it! He is just one of many contemporary artists living and working in Scotland however, and works by many others can be seen at the National Gallery, along with another Vettriano self-portrait from a later stage in his career.

We hope you have found this blog interesting, and this little taster of Scottish art has whetted your appetite to go out there and find more beautiful paintings, sculptures, carvings and more to love and appreciate! Of course we could not cover everything in such a short post, so we look forward to reading your comments about your own favourite pieces and where to find them!