This painting, under the title 'Twas Autumn and Sunshine arose on the Way, was the last work to be exhibited by McTaggart at the Royal Academy in London. He preferred to be "first in my own country" rather than "second in any other". Shown in 1875, it was acquired by a Glasgow art dealer, who wrote asking him to finish the picture. This was not as surprising as it may seem today: then, most dealers and collectors were conditioned by the highly finished products of the Academicians. After an exchange of letters a furious artist took back the painting, offering to "do what I can for it - short of spoiling it - at your risk". In fact, McTaggart did nothing, sending it back to the dealer almost a year later. Before long a purchaser was secured.
Whitehouse is a hamlet on the road from Tarbert to Campbeltown in Kintyre.
Oil on canvas
106 × 173 cm
138.5 × 197 × 9.5 cm
Signed and dated bottom left
William McTaggart RSA VPRSW, 1835-1910
McTaggart is probably the most outstanding and innovative landscape painter Scotland has produced, and has been an important influence on successive generations of Scottish painters. In a career spanning over half a century he displayed an exceptional pattern of consistent development. His early work was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, but gradually his technique became looser and he developed his own version of Impressionism. His later work bordered on expressionism. Unlike most of his contemporaries McTaggart did not move to London but spent almost his entire life painting in Scotland. He lived in Edinburgh until 1889, when he moved to Broomieknowe, then in the countryside to the south of the city.
He was born in Aros, Kintyre, the son of an impoverished crofter. When he was twelve he was apprenticed to a Campbeltown apothecary, who recognised his natural talent for drawing and introduced him to the Glasgow painter Daniel Macnee. The latter advised McTaggart to enrol at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh, which had just appointed Robert Scott Lauder as its co-director, where his fellow students included Hugh Cameron, George Chalmers, Tom Graham and John Pettie. At the academy McTaggart won several prizes for drawing. Although classes were free, he supported himself by accepting portrait commissions, both while a student and later when he married and had a large family. However, as soon as he felt financially secure he concentrated on landscape and seascape, limiting portraiture as much as he could to family and close friends.