About this artwork

This delicate watercolour shows Aberdeen's industrial harbour. The scene celebrates life on both the land and the sea: the chimney of a steam boat echoes that of the factory, and the cruciform masts resonate with the churches behind. Although natural effects dominate the atmosphere of this 'man made' landscape, it is poignant that the only clearly defined living creature is a sea-gull. Cassie's ability to capture the effects of hazy sunlight, with a pink glow that fills the sky, lends what was undoubtedly a gritty urban site an air of serene calm. Cassie applied numerous very light washes of watercolour to render the effects of the sunlight. He used pencil to outline details and more solid structures, such as the church spires, chimneys and ship masts that stretch towards the sky.

James Cassie

James Cassie

James Cassie was born at Keithhall near Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, the son of a prosperous tea and spirit merchant. Although briefly a pupil of the artist James Giles, Cassie was largely self-taught. He began his career as a painter of animals and portraits, but on moving to Aberdeen he increasingly turned his attention to local seascapes and coastal scenes, especially at dawn and sunset. He favoured these outdoor scenes, but continued to paint some domestic subjects and portraits throughout his life. In 1869 he moved to Edinburgh and was elected an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy. Shortly before his death in 1879 he was elected an Academician.