About this artwork

In this view of the Firth of Clyde, the ruined castle on the river bank is set against the backdrop of Dumbarton Rock and the distant Cowal Hills. Thomson’s rocky cliffs, stormy waters and crumbling castles contributed to the early nineteenth century romantic vision of Scotland. He was hailed as the first landscape painter to express the true spirit of the Scottish scenery, which diverged from the more restrained classicism of the early landscapes by his former master Nasmyth. This picture was painted with thick, energetic brushstrokes, especially in the choppy river. The white spray of the tumultuous water provides a dramatic barrier between the viewer and the spectacular castle looming in the background.

  • title: On the Firth of Clyde
  • accession number: NG 461
  • artist: Rev. John ThomsonScottish (1778 - 1840)
  • gallery: Paxton House
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Castles Rivers Rocks The sea
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: about 1830
  • measurements: 63.50 x 96.50 cm (framed: 99.50 x 134.00 x 12.00 cm)
  • credit line: Bequest of Professor James Pillans 1863
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Rev. John Thomson

Rev. John Thomson

While a divinity student in Edinburgh, Thomson attended the landscape drawing classes held by the Scottish artist Alexander Nasmyth. Although this was his only artistic training, Thomson became a major figure in Scottish Romantic landscape painting, while also maintaining a career as a minister in the parish of Duddingston. There, he was close to the intellectual and cultural life of Edinburgh, and formed a long-term friendship with the celebrated poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott. Scott’s atmospheric literary descriptions of the Scottish countryside influenced Thomson’s landscape pictures. He painted recognisable places, but imbued them with a dramatic, romantic atmosphere. This seminal approach to landscape was inspirational to subsequent generations of Scottish artists.