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Creator:
William Bell Scott, 1811–1890, British
Title:

Ailsa Craig

Former Title(s):

A View of Ailsa Craig and the Isle of Arran [1985, Cormack, YCBA Concise Catalogue]

Date:
1860
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
Support (PTG): 12 13/16 x 19 1/4 inches (32.5 x 48.9 cm) and Frame: 17 3/4 × 23 5/8 × 2 1/2 inches (45.1 × 60 × 6.4 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

signed and dated

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1976.7.151
Classification:
Paintings
Collection:
Paintings and Sculpture
Subject Terms:
boats | flora | flowers (plants) | geology | hills | island | landscape | light | mountains | path | reflection | science | sea | sheep
Associated Places:
Ailsa Craig | Clyde, Firth of | Scotland | South Ayrshire | United Kingdom
Access:
On view in the galleries
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:4995
Export:
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Ailsa Craig is an island off the southwest coast of Scotland. Though only about a mile across, it is steep, almost conical in shape, and rises to over a thousand feet. The view here is looking west and north from the mainland, with the Isle of Arran on the horizon to the right and Kintyre to the left. William Bell Scott painted this in July 1860, while staying as a guest of Alice Boyd at Penkill Castle. He had met Boyd the previous year and would have an intimate friendship with her for the rest of his life. Scott moved in Pre-Raphaelite circles since the earliest days of the movement, and Ailsa Craig is a thorough and wholehearted essay in Pre-Raphaelite landscape painting, a tribute particularly to William Holman Hunt’s densely symbolic early landscape, Our English Coasts, 1852 (Strayed Sheep).

Gallery label for A Decade of Gifts and Acquisitions (Yale Center for British Art, 2017-06-01 - 2017-08-13)



Ailsa Craig is an island off the southwest coast of Scotland. Though only about a mile across, it is steep, almost conical in shape, and rises to over a thousand feet. The view here is looking west and north from the mainland, with the Isle of Arran on the horizon to the right and Kintyre to the left. William Bell Scott painted this in July 1860, while staying as a guest of Alice Boyd at Penkill Castle. He had met Boyd the previous year and would have an intimate friendship with her for the rest of his life. Scott moved in Pre-Raphaelite circles since the earliest days of the movement, and Ailsa Craig is a thorough and wholehearted essay in Pre-Raphaelite landscape painting, a tribute particularly to William Holman Hunt’s densely symbolic early landscape, Our English Coasts, 1852 (Strayed Sheep).

Gallery label for installation of YCBA collection, 2016
Ailsa Craig is an island off the southwest coast of Scotland, at the entrance to the Firth of Clyde; though only about a mile across, it is steep, almost conical in shape, and rises to over a thousand feet. The view here is looking west and north from the mainland, with the Isle of Arran on the horizon to the right and Kintyre to the left. Scott painted it while staying at Penkill Castle, a few miles inland from Girvan, in July 1860. There he was the guest of Alice Boyd, whom he had met in the previous year, and with whom he was to have an intimate friendship for the rest of his life. From this time on he would regularly spend his summers at Penkill, where he painted pictures and murals, wrote poems, and entertained artistic and literary friends such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He died there in 1890 and was buried in the local church.
Scott had moved in Pre-Raphaelite circles since the earliest days of the movement, and Ailsa Craig is a thorough and wholehearted essay in Pre-Raphaelite landscape painting, a tribute particularly to William Holman Hunt's densely symbolic early landscape Our English Coasts, 1852 (Strayed Sheep) (1852; Tate Gallery). In their approach to landscape the Pre-Raphaelites tried to rid their minds of all preconceptions about natural beauty, especially theories of the "ideal" and the "picturesque" handed down from the eighteenth century. For them the purpose of art was neither to order nature so as to please the eye; nor to invest it with human feelings; nor to capture its fleeting effects in an "impression." They tried instead to document its appearance, to provide the viewer with as much information about the given place as possible. Typically, Scott chose a time of day for his scene, late afternoon, at which the best light fell on his foreground. He painted everything on the spot, from direct observation, in crisp, all-over detail, and with little or no concession to the limitations of human eyesight. The work is an assemblage of facts to be examined like specimens in a glass display case, and every bright, ringing detail is in focus at the same time.
The Pre-Raphaelites aspired to make art more like science, and Scott's foreground shows a characteristic keenness to identify botanical species. He gives us no generic, fill-in vegetation, but plant portraits: yellow irises, thistles, and so on. He chose a place to paint whose geology shows through clearly, and provides everything we might wish to know on this subject too, resisting all temptation to improve on nature's own designs. As a result, there is a sense of the bending, moulding, wearing down, and crumbling of rock-the operation of great forces over great periods of time. We find ourselves wondering how and in what far-distant epoch Ailsa Craig was formed. The sheep tracks following the contours of the land resemble undulating strata; the scattered boulders and pebbles at the beach remind us of the eroding power of the sea. Geology was a key issue for the Victorians, fascinated as they were by its latest findings, troubled as they were by the threat these posed to traditional religious beliefs. In another great Pre-Raphaelite coastal landscape, William Dyce's Pegwell Bay (1858-60; Tate Gallery), a comet sighted over some fossil-rich cliffs represents the vastnesses of space and time that modern science was opening up; in Our English Coasts, 1852 (Strayed Sheep), Hunt shows sheep near a cliff edge to represent the Christian flock in peril; and in Ailsa Craig, his Scottish coast-a landscape of fact and geology crossed by sheep-Scott may well have intended resonances of a similar kind.

Malcolm Warner
Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 160, no. 65, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA)

Unto This Last (WattsGallery) (Watts Gallery Trust, 2020-03-10 - 2020-11-01) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Pre-Raphaelite Lens - British Photography and Painting, 1848-1875 (Musée d'Orsay, 2011-03-06 - 2011-05-29) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Pre-Raphaelite Lens - British Photography and Painting, 1848-1875 (National Gallery of Art, 2010-10-31 - 2011-01-30) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

The Triumph of Landscape - Turner to Monet (National Gallery of Australia, 2008-03-14 - 2008-06-09) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Pre-Raphaelite Vision : Truth to Nature (CaixaForum, Fundacio "la Caixa", 2004-09-28 - 2005-01-09) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Pre-Raphaelite Vision : Truth to Nature (Alte Nationalgalerie, 2004-06-12 - 2004-09-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Pre-Raphaelite Vision : Truth to Nature (Tate Britain, 2004-01-12 - 2004-05-03) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of South Australia, 1998-09-16 - 1998-11-15) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Queensland Art Gallery, 1998-07-15 - 1998-09-06) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

This Other Eden : British Paintings from the Paul Mellon Collection at Yale (Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1998-05-01 - 1998-07-05) [YCBA Objects in the Exhibition]

Malcolm Cormack, Concise Catalogue of Paintings in the Yale Center for British Art, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1985, pp. 200-201, N590.2 A83 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Malcolm Cormack, Seascapes : Yale Center for British Art., , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1977, no. 49, V 1909 (YCBA) Vertical File [YCBA]

Christine Dixon, Turner to Monet, the triumph of landscape painting , National Gallery of Australia, Canberra Seattle, WA, 2008, pp. 27-8, 160-1, no. 56, ND1349.5 D59 2008 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Julia Marciari-Alexander, This other Eden, paintings from the Yale Center for British Art , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 1998, p. 160, no. 65, ND1314.3 Y36 1998 (YCBA) [YCBA]

Paul Mellon's Legacy, a passion for British art. [large print labels] , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, v. 1, N5220 M552 +P381 2007, Mellon Shelf (YCBA) [YCBA]

Allen Staley, Pre-Raphaelite vision, truth to nature , Tate Publishing, London, 2004, p. 52, no. 20, ND467.5 P7 S73 2004 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Allen Staley, The Pre-Raphaelite Landscape, Clarendon Press, New Haven, 2001, pp. 122, 123, pl. 93, ND1354.5 S82 2001 OVERSIZE (YCBA) [YCBA]

Diane Waggoner, The Pre-Raphaelite lens, British photography and painting, 1848-1875 , National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Farnham, Surrey [England], 2009, pp. 61, 91, pl. 47, N72 P5 W34 2010 + (YCBA) [YCBA]

Moritz Wullen, Natur als Vision, Meisterwerke der Englischen Prèaraffaeliten , SMB-DuMont, Berlin, 2004, no. 4, ND467.5 P7 N37 2004 (YCBA) [YCBA]


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