About this artwork

Fast Castle, which stands on a rocky promontory on the Berwickshire coast, was generally taken to be the inspiration for Sir Walter Scott's imaginary castle of Wolf's Crag in the novel 'The Bride of Lammermoor'. Thomson and Scott were firm friends, and in 1823 Thomson presented the writer with one of his paintings of Fast Castle. He made at least eleven pictures of the castle from diverse vantage points and in different weather conditions. Here, the old castle ruin stands proudly against the menacing sky and rough sea. Three small figures in the foreground call out to a person, possibly a woman, running down the hill-side, adding an underlying sentiment of uneasiness, mystery and danger.

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.