Two New Paintings for the Scottish National Gallery

Waller Hugh Paton (1828-1895)
Entrance to the Cuiraing, Skye, 1873
Oil on canvas - 111.8 x 162.6 cm
Edimbourg, Scottish National Gallery
Photo : Scottish National Gallery

21/11/11 - Acquisitions, Edinburgh, Scottish National Gallery - The Scottish National Gallery recently proceeded to fill a gap in their collections by acquiring, last October, a work by Waller Hugh Paton (1828-1895), famous in his native Scotland for his landscape paintings. Until now, the museum held only a watercolor from 1861, entitled Springtime, Strathearn. Entrance to the Cuiraing, Skye is an oil on canvas purchased from the Bourne Fine Art Gallery in Edinburgh, thanks to support from various patrons at the museum ; it had previously come up for auction at Aguttes’ on 22 Novembre 2010 in Paris at Drouot and sold for 27,801€.
Executed in 1873, it represents a typical Scottish view : the Cuiraing, a mountain chain on the isle of Skye. The painter who confessed he had horrible memories of this setting, underscores its fantastic aspect by setting the rocky peak in the center of his composition, making the spectator feel as if he were inside the jaws of a toothless monster, while on the left three tiny, barely distinguishible, figures climb slowly up a mountain ; finally, the sky with its orange yellow tones severed by pink and blue clouds, characteristic of the artist, seems to contribute to an atmosphere which is both eery and sublime. In fact, the isle attracted many visitors despite the daunting impression presented here.
Born in Dunfermline, Waller Hugh was the brother of Sir Joseph Noel Paton (1821-1901) known for his fairy-like illustrations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The two of them began working with their father, Joseph Neil Paton, a fabric designer, and Waller Hugh first created damask models before then turning to landscape painting, exhibiting his works on a regular basis as of 1851 at the Royal Scottish Academy. He was influenced by John Ruskin (who gave a lecture, notably, in November 1853 in Edinburgh) and the pre-Raphaelites, offering a poetic and mystical idea of nature while still depicting it realistically.

Jean-Baptiste Baron Regnault (1754 - 1829)
Jean-François Regnault, 1815
Oil on panel - 77 x 62 cm
Edimbourg, Scottish National Gallery
Photo : Scottish National Gallery

Another recent acquisition, a portrait of Jean-François Regnault (1815) by Jean-Baptiste Regnault was donated by a benefactor who had purchased it from the Parisian gallery, Talabardon et Gautier. Familiar for his mythological paintings, particularly his Three Graces at the Louvre reflecting his rivalry with David, Regnault was also a talented portraitist as shown by his Queen Hortense in Malmaison.
The father of three sons who all entered the military, Regnault captured their likenesses in 1815 ; despite the strict uniform, the representations betray the liberty deployed by the artist in portraying his family. The one at the Scottish Gallery presents the second son, a captain of the third regiment of sharpshooters in the Imperial Guard ; the scar on his forehead is there to remind us of his bravery during the siege of Astorga, Spain in 1810. And yet the officer’s expression is far from martial : with a downward look, a fleeting smile, the artist has imparted a pensive sweetness, tinged with a certain melancholy, on the model.
The portrait of his brother, Antoine-Louis, which was auctioned at Christie’s New York on 8 June 2011, follows the same formula of a bust presented against a dark background of slightly orange shades, evoking a sky from a battle scene suggestive of smoke and fire. The expression here, however, is different : with the body angled to the left, his head is turned to look out at the viewer in a dynamic movement which corresponds more aptly to his military status, in this case, aide-de-camp to a lieutenant general of the Empire to whom he is delivering a letter. A surprising self-portrait of Regnault was also on offer at this same auction.

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Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, mardi 22 novembre 2011

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