Illustrated is small oil painting by the Scottish artist John Pettie which caused a stir at John Nicolson’s auctions in Haslemere, Surrey at the tail end of January.
Portrait of a Scottish Laird, an 11½in x 9in oil on canvas, was knocked down to an American buyer for £1900, over six times the top estimate.
Edinburgh-born Pettie (1839-1893) specialised in romanticised Scottish historical paintings that verged on the melodramatic. After drawing inspiration from the novels of Sir Walter Scott he spent several years focusing on Jacobite subjects.
In 1866 he was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy, and in 1874 received full academical honours. His diploma picture was Jacobites 1745.
In rapid succession he then exhibited Fugitives from Culloden at the Royal Academy in 1875, Hunted Down at the RA in 1877 and Disbanded at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1878, a stunning painting of a returning Highlander and now one of my Top Ten favourites at The McManus.
He also completed a portrait of Dundee’s greatest art philanthropist, James Guthrie Orchar, and was a regular visitor to Orchar’s home in Broughty Ferry. (Less well known is that Orchar collected antique violins – and owned two by Stradivarius!)
Pettie’s work is now in some of the country’s top galleries, among others the National Portrait Gallery and the Tate. His subject matter is also popular among private collections – including the Royal Collection, and back in 2010 Christie’s took an auction record for the artist, £199,150, for The Chieftain’s Candlesticks, an oil of torch-wielding Highlanders, which had come from the Forbes Collection.
Pettie was a rapid worker, and no doubt he painted little sketches like this and trusted their patriotic charm to woo Scottish collectors.
Picture: Portrait of a Scottish Laird, by John Pettie, £1900 (John Nicholson’s Auctions).