Poolewe, Ross-shire, on the north-west coast, is a tiny village abutting Loch Ewe, at the top of the River Ewe. The river is framed by mountains, but its banks are peaty and flat. A 19th Century account describes how the land subsides into 'a broad flat plain, chiefly covered with moss 5 or 6 feet deep' and elaborates: 'On this flat, which was then used as a common, a large market was held for generations, known as the Feil Judha, or Ewe Market, so called from the river near which it took place, and not from the animal. This was frequented by the people of the neighbouring region, and very largely by the Lewsmen [from the Isle of Lewis], as being then the nearest and most convenient spot in which to dispose of their cattle and other produce on the mainland, taking back other articles for consumption. The last of these markets was held so far back as 160 years ago, when it is said that the Lewsmen, while returning home in the usual open boats of the West Coast, were overtaken by a violent storm...and all or most of them lost.' (see W. Jolly, 'Notes on Bronze Weapons and other remains found near Poolewe, Ross-shire', Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 1879-80).
This history gives us an intriguing insight into Farquharson's title, which directs our attention to the peaty moss shrouding the land as it recedes into mist. The huddle of sheep have an almost anthromorphic quality, as they make their way along the river's perameter.
Farquharson is the most famous of Scottish landscape painters working in the 19th Century, and remained true to his native style and subject matter well into the 20th. His impressionistic technique owes much to time spent in Paris, under the tutelage of Carolus Duran, during the early 1880s. Students were encouraged to visit the forest of Fontainebleau to practise painting en plein air. The instinct to immerse himself in his subject came naturally to Farquharson who possessed a number of mobile painting huts, furnished with stoves, with which he travelled around his estate at Finzean in Royal Deeside.
Farquharson's ability to evoke atmosphere within the restraints of the realist tradition was lauded by Sickert who wrote: '[His] extraordinary virtuousity has been developed by experience, but it arises certainly from the fact that he is telling his story. The arrest of the fox in the snow of the picture called 'Supper Time' is a breathless moment...Bloomsbury will perhaps tell you that it is wrong to paint a live fox. Fortunately [this ethos] does not run in the North of Scotland' (W. Sickert, A Free House, 1947, pp. 204-6.
Farquharson was fortunate in being able to pursue his vocation without obstacle. He inherited the Finzean estate from his father Francis, a doctor who was also a keen amateur artist.