Alexander Nasmyth

Princes Street with the Commencement of the Building of the Royal Institution (1825)

About this artwork

This grand panorama combines Nasmyth's atmospheric treatment of the sky and distant features with great topographical accuracy. The view of Princes Street looking east contrasts the New Town buildings on the left with the Old Town on the right, crowned by the distinctive open spire of St Giles Cathedral. In the distance, Arthur's Seat and The Nelson Monument on Calton Hill punctuate the skyline. One of Edinburgh's finest buildings devoted to the arts is under construction in the foreground. The Royal Institution, later home to the Royal Scottish Academy, was designed by William Henry Playfair and opened in 1826. Now known as the Royal Scottish Academy Building, it is owned and administered by the National Galleries of Scotland and is the city's main exhibition venue.

Alexander Nasmyth

Alexander Nasmyth

Nasmyth's impressive landscapes are his most significant contribution to painting in Scotland. One of his most famous works, however, is the portrait of his friend, the poet Robert Burns. Nasmyth, a pupil of Runciman, was assistant to Allan Ramsay and developed a sound appreciation of the importance of drawing to educate the artist's eye and hand. His interest in landscape painting stimulated his involvement with landscaping projects, including the layout of the grounds of Inveraray Castle. He was also an accomplished engineer, designing and building several bridges, and an influential teacher, inspiring many younger artists including his own children.