Horatio McCulloch

Edinburgh Castle from the Foot of the Vennel (Dated (in pencil) August 16th 1845)

About this artwork

This study shows one of the most spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle. This aspect was a very popular one among artists in the mid-nineteenth century. An inscription on the paper says that it was done 'on the spot'. McCulloch moved to Edinburgh in 1838 and painted many distant views of the city, but this drawing is one of only three known street scenes (the other two are both in the NGS collection). The scale of the imposing Castle and the glory of its past contrast with the humble lives of the ordinary people and buildings below. The limited palette, use of white body-colour, and sparse application of wash suggest that McCulloch may have been influenced by the technique of David Roberts.

Horatio McCulloch

Horatio McCulloch

McCulloch's landscape paintings celebrate the romantic scenery of the Scottish Highlands, emphasising its dramatic grandeur. McCulloch, from Glasgow, was influenced by John Knox's luminous paintings, Sir Walter Scott's vivid prose and the expressive pictures by John Thompson of Duddingston, Edinburgh. McCulloch's summer sketching tours of the West Highlands inspired some of his most powerful paintings, which were created back in the studio. His landscapes combine a magnificent sense of scale with an emotionally charged atmosphere, and contributed to the popular Victorian image of the Highlands. McCulloch also recorded the crumbling houses of Edinburgh's Old Town, and was among the first artists to focus on the urban and industrial landscape of Scotland.