Off to the Fishing (About 1871)
About this artwork
McTaggart's childhood days in Kintyre on West Coast of Scotland induced a love of the sea that stayed with him for the rest of his life. He excelled at painting the scudding foam and spray, and the changing light and colour of the sea. Here, he has perfectly captured the essence of life spent among the elements on the cold, green sea. McTaggart was knowledgeable about boats and made precise studies of the skiffs that were used to catch the once plentiful herrings, or 'Silver Darlings'. These fishing vessels were particular to western Scotland and measured around thirty feet in length, with room for four oarsmen. As McTaggart shows here, their masts were raked at an angle with brown tanned sails.
McTaggart's land and seascapes reflect his fascination with nature and man's relationship with it. His bold colours and vigorous brushwork find parallels in Impressionist painting, although essentially form part of a distinct Scottish tradition. They also echo qualities in paintings by Constable and Turner, whom he admired. McTaggart was born on the Mull of Kintyre and returned there frequently from his studio in Glasgow and later from his home in Broomieknow, just outside Edinburgh. He trained in Edinburgh at the Trustees' Academy and enjoyed early success when elected as an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy aged twenty-four.