About this artwork

This dramatic view of Tantallon Castle in East Lothian was probably painted about 1816. It shows the Romantic transformation of a type of motif which Nasmyth had begun to explore in the 1790s; large-scale panoramic views of Scottish country houses and castles. In these scenes, he sought topographical accuracy combined with picturesque sentiment. Here, Nasmyth’s choice of subject probably reflects his creative response to the immense reputation of Sir Walter Scott, whose epic poem ‘Marmion’ (1808) celebrated the historical associations of Tantallon. Nasmyth’s composition is also strongly reminiscent of the dramatic shipwrecks painted by Claude Joseph Vernet in the mid-eighteenth century.

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.