67 x 100 cm stretched canvas featuring artwork Entrance to the Cuiraing, Skye by Waller Hugh Paton, from the National Galleries of Scotland collection.
This painting is a spectacular example of Paton’s mature landscape work. It shows the Cuiraing (or Quiraing in modern usage), a remarkable landslip on the Trotternish peninsula of Skye. Paton had visited the area during a tour of Skye in 1866 and made a number of sketches and watercolours. Here, the jagged spike of the thirty-seven-meter-high pinnacle known as ‘The Needle’ dominates the middle of the composition. The kilted man scrambling up the stony hillside is incidental compared to the vast expanses of rock, water and cloud that surround him. Paton described the Quiraing as ‘an awful place’, despite the fact that it had become a top destination for artists and tourists alike. Paton exhibited this vast picture at the 1873 Royal Scottish Academy exhibition.
Paton was born in Dunfermline, the son of a damask designer. After briefly following his father into the textile business he became a landscape painter. Hugh was the younger brother of the artist Sir Joseph Noel Paton, who was a good friend of the art critic and artist John Ruskin. It is likely that both brothers attended Ruskin's Edinburgh lectures of 1853 on the principles of Pre-Raphaelitism, which had a great impact on Hugh's work. In exquisitely meticulous studies he depicted the natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Paton displayed skill as both an oil and watercolour painter. He was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1865, and throughout his career he exhibited nearly 400 pictures there.