Andrew Nicholl, son of a bookmaker, and younger brother of the painter William Nicholl (1794-1840), was apprenticed to the Belfast printer F.D. Finlay. His landscapes had already gained local recognition by the time he moved to London, where he taught himself by copying the paintings by the Old Masters. Back in Dublin, he first exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy in 1832, being elected associate and full member in 1837 and 1860. By 1840 he was back in London but left six years later to accompany his patron Sir James Emerson Tennent (1804-1869) to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Here he took up the role of drawing master at the Colombo Academy. On his return, Nicholl lived in London, Dublin and Belfast, where he continued to paint and give drawing lessons.
The current watercolour depicts the town of Westport, situated at the mouth of the Carrowbeg River in an area of drumlins which continue westward, creating the great archipelago of Clew Bay (W. Laffen (ed.), op. cit., p. 112). Westport House can be seen on the coast line, to the centre right of the composition. It was designed by Richard Castle (1695-1751) in 1731, for Lord Altamont (1709-76) (later the first Earl of Sligo). To the left of the scene Ireland's famous holy mountain, Croagh Patrick, towers over the bay, creating a wonderful compositional counter part to the plunging valley below.
This panoramic view is filled with sinuous lines; Nicholl skilfully leads the viewer's eye from the curving road in the foreground, through the rolling landscape, to the carefully delineated town nestling below. The corn has been cut and the straw arranged in stooks, while the trees are turning from green to brown under the strong summer sun. The present drawing is an outstanding example of the artist's late work and the colour and composition are exceptionally fresh and vibrant.