The panoramic landscapes of John Knox are among the most compelling visual testaments of the revival of interest in the landscape of Scotland in the early 19th century, a revival that owed much to Sir Walter Scott's poetry.
Born in Paisley, the son of a yarn merchant, Knox moved to Glasgow in 1799, where he is recorded first as a portrait painter, in 1809, and later as landscape painter, in 1821. He travelled widely on the west coast of Scotland, publishing a volume of lithographs entitled Scottish Scenery drawn upon Stone by John Knox in 1823, possibly inspired by William Daniell's A Voyage round Great Britain (1813-25). He lived in London between 1828 and 1836, exhibiting works at the Royal Academy and British Institution.
The southern shores of Loch Lomond lie just fourteen miles north of Glasgow. With the largest surface area of all the Scottish Lochs (being twenty-four miles long, five miles wide and, at its deepest point, 600 feet deep), this sublime landscape has inspired artists, poets and writers for centuries, including the anonymous song, first published in 1841:
By yon bonnie banks
And by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright
On Loch Lomond
Oh we twa ha'e pass'd
sae mony blithesome days,
On the bonnie, bonnie banks
O' Loch Lomond
Oh, ye'll tak' the high road, and I'll tak' the low road,
And I'll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond...
Knox later captured this same vast panorama in two separate, consecutive canvases, South-Western view from Ben Lomond and North-Western view from Ben Lomond, which were exhibited at the Glasgow Dilettanti Society, 7th Annual Exhibition, in 1834 (nos. 228 and 234). This pair has been identified with the pair now in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow (William Euing Bequest, 1874) and a second autograph pair purchased by Alexander, 10th Duke of Hamilton, and 7th Duke of Brandon (1767-1852), for his house outside Glasgow, Hamilton Palace, and by descent in the family until 1986, when they were sold at Sotheby's (16 July 1986, lot 86) (private collection, on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland). In the South-Western view, Knox has positioned himself above the village of Rowardennan, with a vista across the Firth of Clyde towards the distant hills of Arran. The North-Western view is taken from the steeper slopes of Ben Lomond and shows the peak of the hill at 3,192 feet, beyond lies the upper reaches of Loch Lomond and on the right Loch Katrine, while Ben Lui can just be glimpsed in the far distance.
The wide sweep of Knox's View of Loch Lomond anticipates the age of photography. But this may more properly be seen as a development on the painter's part from formulas used in the panorama shows that were so popular at the time. In any case, it represents a decisive departure from the views composed in classical terms by Knox's greatest precursor as a landscape-painter in Scotland, Alexander Nasmyth (1758-1840). Knox describes Loch Lomond and its setting with an almost scientific accuracy. His preoccupation with recording what he observed was as intense as that of painters in the following century, not least Sir David Young Cameron (1865-1945), who sought to define the drama of the Scottish landscape.
We are grateful to Helen Smailes of the National Gallery of Scotland and Hugh Stevenson of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow for their assistance in cataloguing this lot.