A Gentle hand on the Tiller

James Drummond

Scottish ( b.1816 - d.1877 )

A Gentle hand on the Tiller

  • Watercolour heightened with white
  • Signed & dated 1870 lower left

Oval image size 12.6 inches x 10.2 inches ( 32cm x 26cm )
Frame size 23.8 inches x 21.1 inches ( 60.5cm x 53.5cm )

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Sold by Big Sky Fine Art; this original watercolour by James Drummond, dating to 1870, is presented and supplied in a 1950s frame and sophisticated mount (which is shown in these photographs) and is behind glass.
This antique painting is in very good condition, commensurate with its age. It wants for nothing and is supplied ready to hang and display.
The watercolour is signed and dated 1870 lower left.

James Drummond was a notable Scottish historical genre painter and an early photographer. The son of a Scottish merchant, he was born and brought up on John Knox’s House, Canongate, Edinburgh. This stimulated his interest in the history and traditions of Edinburgh.

He worked first as a draughtsman for Captain Brown, author of works on ornithology. He then taught briefly before entering the Trustees Academy, Edinburgh and studied with Sir William Allan. He became steeped in Scottish archaeology and history, carried out meticulous research and most of his subjects were taken from Scottish history. In particular he had a great knowledge of Scottish arms, customs and costumes and became a prolific collector of these. As an artist he is noted for his historical accuracy in his large canvases and made his name with the historical canvas The Porteous Mob.

Drummond was also a good topographical watercolourist and recorded many of the old streets and buildings of Edinburgh in the 1840s-1850s, prior to their demolition. He was also the author of two classic works, one on Scottish weapons and the other on the cultural stones of the West Highlands.

Drummond exhibited at the Royal Society of Artist from the age of eighteen, becoming an associate in 1846 and a full member in 1852. Two of his smaller works, “War” and “Peace”, were exhibited at the British Institute in 1850 and purchased by Prince Albert. They are now part of the collection at Osbourne House.

Drummond was appointed Curator of the Edinburgh National Gallery from 1868 to 1877, when he died in Edinburgh.

Today he has works in the Blackburn and Edinburgh collections and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

This most charming of images depicts a young boy, perhaps around 10 years of age. He is seated at the end of a simple wooden rowing boat with his left hand on the tiller. The boat is out at sea and the boy looks extremely calm and comfortable in the situation, no doubt something he has done dozens of times before. He is wearing a blue and white striped undershirt, with a blue top and matching sou’wester hat. He has auburn hair and blue eyes. We feel that this is a lad who is content and wise beyond his years, enjoying a day’s fishing perhaps with his father or friend. This image speaks of simple pleasures and the joy of living by the coast.