Culzean Castle, Ayrshire [Verso: Sketches of Heads] (1812)
About this artwork
Culzean Castle is perched high on a cliff above the Firth of Clyde in Ayrshire, and offers superb views across to the Isle of Arran. The name derives from 'Cuilean', meaning ‘place of caves’, because the shoreline is honeycombed with natural caverns carved by the action of the sea. This network of caves offered a haven for smugglers in the eighteenth century. The magnificent castle was re-modelled by Robert Adam at the end of the eighteenth-century and is one of the finest Georgian castles in Scotland. This carefully observed pen and wash drawing is typical of the preparatory studies that Nasmyth later developed into oil paintings back in his studio. It probably dates from his 1812 visit to the Castle, when he was commissioned to make two paintings for the picture room at Culzean.
Nasmyth's impressive landscapes are his most significant contribution to painting in Scotland. One of his most famous works, however, is the portrait of his friend, the poet Robert Burns. Nasmyth, a pupil of Runciman, was assistant to Allan Ramsay and developed a sound appreciation of the importance of drawing to educate the artist's eye and hand. His interest in landscape painting stimulated his involvement with landscaping projects, including the layout of the grounds of Inveraray Castle. He was also an accomplished engineer, designing and building several bridges, and an influential teacher, inspiring many younger artists including his own children.