Artworks
The Storm
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ldewey's picture

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William McTaggart’s The Storm is laden with Scottish angst.

Painter William McTaggart grew up on the wild west coast of Scotland, where he probably saw a fair few storms of this magnitude. This particular rager is situated on the Kintyre Peninsula, a wee 15 miles from McTaggart’s hometown.

A smaller version of this painting was done live at the site of a 1883 storm in Carradale, where McTaggart spent several summers. This later version was reproduced from the dry safety of his studio and shows considerably less urgency in the brushstrokes. We’ll give him some credit...it’s probably way easier to paint when your kilt isn’t blowing up around your armpits. 

If you look closely at the left foreground you’ll notice a gaggle of anxious villagers overseeing the launch of a rescue boat. The fragile fishing vessel that they’re after is barely perceptible among the waves. These human elements are carefully integrated into the landscape, sort of like a cryptic Scottish “I-Spy” picture made to suggest the futility of human mastery over nature.

This painting was eventually bought by the famous steel tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, a Scottish expat himself. After he died in 1919, his widow donated McTaggart’s painting to the Scottish National Gallery in a fond display of patriotism. Once a Scot, always a Scot.