John Blake MacDonald

Study for the Painting 'The Arrest of a Rebel after the Battle of Culloden' (Dated 1864)

About this artwork

This painting shows a ‘rebel’ highlander being arrested by government troops after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. MacDonald’s drawing is dated 1864, and is a preparatory study for a painting which he exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy the same year. MacDonald was working at the height of the Romantic Movement when writers, artists and poets were able to look on Jacobite history from a safe distance. They drew on the stories and anecdotes from the past and explored all their potential for drama and pathos. Here, MacDonald shows the tartan-clad highlander with his wife, who holds the arresting soldier at arms length. Behind them their sleeping baby is in the arms of an elderly woman, who weeps as the hopelessness of their situation is realised.

  • title: Study for the Painting 'The Arrest of a Rebel after the Battle of Culloden'
  • accession number: D 2756
  • artist: John Blake MacDonaldScottish (1829 - 1901)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • subject: The Jacobites
  • date created: Dated 1864
  • measurements: 14.80 x 19.50 cm
  • credit line: William Findlay Watson Bequest 1881

John Blake MacDonald

John Blake MacDonald

McDonald was born and educated in Boat of Bridge, near Boharm in Banffshire. In 1852 he entered the Trustees’ Academy in Edinburgh, and later at the Royal Scottish Academy. He was a pupil of Robert Scott Lauder, and his work reflects his masters’ strong use of light and shadow. His early pictures focussed on domestic genre scenes and landscapes, but he developed an interest in episodes from Scotland’s history. He drew on popular subjects such as Jacobite history or old clan rivalry, and presented a romanticised, theatrical version of real events. His work was admired in its day, even attracting the eye of Queen Victoria.