About this artwork

This study was for the painting 'The Battle of Drumclog', which Harvey exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1836. It shows the battle that took place in 1676 between the Covenanters and the Royalist army led by John Graham of Claverhouse (who eventually became Viscount Claverhouse of Dundee). The battle of Drumclog was the only occasion on which the Covenanters defeated the Royalist forces. Harvey had a genuine sympathy for the Covenanters. Unfortunately his composition is not wholly successful, as the numerous intertwined figures become confusing, making it difficult for the viewer to understand the action.

Sir George Harvey

Sir George Harvey

Harvey is best known for his Scottish history painting and contemporary narrative scenes. Many of his subjects, designed to invite an emotional response, appear rather sentimental to modern viewers but were extremely popular when first exhibited. Harvey was a student of Sir William Allan's at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh. He followed Allan's example in his skilled draughtsmanship and detailed preparatory studies for his major compositions. His work also reflects Wilkie's influence. Harvey was a founder member of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1826 and went on to become its president in 1864. He was knighted three years later.