Gustave Doré was born in Strasbourg in January 1832 and was a child prodigy who was drawing from the age of 5. It’s believed that he secured his job as an illustrator at aged 15 by walking into a publishing company with a set of drawings and was given a job straight away. By the age of 16 he was believed to be the highest paid illustrator in France and went on to illustrate works by Dante, Edgar Allan Poe as well as the Bible. Today he is more widely known for his engravings, particularly those which formed his book, London: A Pilgrimage, which concentrated particularly on the poverty which existed in London during the Victorian period.
He first visited the Scottish Highlands in 1873 with his friend Colonel Teesdale, who had taken him to Scotland for a salmon fishing trip. However, he preferred to sketch rather than fish and was inspired by the Scottish landscape, returning again in 1874. His love of Scottish scenery saw him produce many landscapes of the Highlands from his Paris studio which were often more romantic in nature than true to life. This painting, of Glen Massan near Dunoon, is a large canvas in a romantic Victorian style. The strong diagonal elements of the hillside are offset against the moving billowing clouds with shafts of light highlighting the work. The lack of people in Gustave’s Highland paintings may stem from the fact that the romantic myth of the time was that few, if any, actual people had visited these scenes and the artist, or continental visitor, might consider themselves the first to set foot there. A romantic notion indeed!
Vincent van Gogh referred to Doré as an “Artist of the People”. He died in Paris in 1883.
You can view this painting in first floor gallery Scottish Identity in Art at Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.
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