The son of the successful anecdotal painter, Erskine Nicol, it is probable that he learnt his craft from his father. Today, Nicol’s reputation rests on this iconic image of the Highland Clearances, which he painted aged 27 in 1883, a year after riots on Skye against the impact of Clearances. It has been suggested that the artist chose this highly political subject in solidarity with the newly formed Highland Land League. Lochaber No More is a famous highland lament composed by the 18th century poet, Allan Ramsay. More recently it has inspired the lyrics of one the Proclaimers’ most famous songs. Lochaber No More formed the centrepiece for Oscar Murillo’s installation at 2019 Turner Contemporary.
John Watson Nicol
Oil on canvas
108 × 83 cm
136.1 × 112 × 8.4 cm
Signed and dated bottom left
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.