A Highland Chieftain

John Watson Nicol


Painted in 1890, Nicol’s powerful portrait of an ageing highland chieftain wrapped in his clan's plaid and with eagle feather in his bonnet is a haunting evocation of a lost social strata which has started its decline after the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and was finished off by the economic and social upheavals in the Nineteenth Century.  

  • Artist

    John Watson Nicol

  • Date


  • Medium

    Oil on board

  • Object number


  • Dimensions unframed

    32.5 × 23 cm

  • Dimensions framed

    50 × 41 × 5 cm

  • Marks

    Signed and dated bottom right

  • Subject



John Watson Nicol ROI, 1856-1926

Very little is known about the life of Nicol. He was the son of the genre and figure painter Erskine Nicol and the brother of Erskine E. Nicol Jnr, also a painter. John Watson Nicol was born in Edinburgh and brought up in London, following his father's move there in 1863. He was a painter of genre and historical subjects and portraits, but it is not known whether he had any formal art training or learned his craft in his father's studio. Today Nicol's reputation rests on his painting Lochaber No More, which he executed in 1883 at the age of twenty-seven, exhibiting the picture at the Royal Academy the same year. It was engraved for illustration in The Art Journal in 1884.