William Brassey Hole

Scottish National Portrait Gallery; cartoons for processional frieze (From Mungo Park to James Bruce) (Drawn about 1898)

About this artwork

In the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s Great Hall, along the first-floor ambulatory runs a processional or pageant frieze that depicts many famous Scots in reverse chronological order. Starting with Thomas Carlyle, it was designed as a ‘visual encyclopedia’ and includes figures such as David Livingstone, James Watt, Robert Burns, Adam Smith, David Hume, the Stuart monarchs, Robert the Bruce and Saint Ninian. This cartoon shows the section which runs from the explorer, Mungo Park (1771 – 1806), to fellow traveller, James Bruce (1730 - 1794). The artist, William Hole, also painted a series of large-scale murals depicting scenes from Scottish history on the first floor.

William Brassey Hole

William Brassey Hole

Edinburgh-based artist William Hole specialised in history painting and etching. Around 1895 he volunteered to decorate the chancel of St James’ Church on Inverleith Row with large-scale murals. In 1897 the still unfinished work came to the attention of John Ritchie Findlay, owner of ‘The Scotsman’ newspaper. Findlay commissioned Hole to carry out the internal decorative scheme of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which had recently been built with money donated by Findlay. During several years, Hole designed and painted a processional frieze of Scottish worthies and completed a series of large murals that illustrate events in Scottish history. He later carried out other important commissions, including six paintings for the City Chambers in Edinburgh.