'MacWhirter has journeyed on the Continent every year; and few men have maintained throughout life a greater enthusiasm for travel. In one of these early years he spent six months in Rome... MacWhirter occupied his time in the Campagna, and among the ruins, and painted several elaborate pictures...' (Archdeacon W. M. Sinclair, John MacWhirter, R.A., His Life and Work, Christmas edition of The Art Annual, 1903, p. 18)
This fascinating album is one of those compiled by the artist's widow after her husband's death to preserve the smaller drawings found in his studio (another was sold at Sotheby's, 27 November 2003, lot 353). The drawings and sketches contained in the volume offer a fascinating and intimate insight into the delicate working method of the artist and the varied subjects that inspired him. His love of Scottish landscape and rural life is shown in the numerous sketches of highland landscapes, loch-side vistas, a watercolour of the river Tweed and studies of crofters cottages. There are also many sketches made during MacWhirter's European travels, of Alpine Chalets, rooftops in Bruge, the beach at Mentone, boats at Lago Maggiore, and street scenes and architectural details at Heidelberg, Antwerp and Nuremberg. Perhaps the most numerous of the sketches were made in and around Rome, with several pages of detailed costume studies of Italian peasants, a beautiful series of studies of broken architectural fragments in the Forum and on the Via Appia, the ruined mausoleum at Villa de Cordiani and a distant view of St Peter's from the Campagna. There are atmospheric drawings of ships tossed in turbulent seas or anchored in safe harbour, sensitive studies of botany, several self-portraits of MacWhirter sketching in wild landscapes. The weather features prominently in many of the drawings and there are sketches of figures clustered against the cold on a windswept jetty and scurrying through the streets amid a rain shower. There is an amusing and highly personal drawing of a husband and wife (perhaps the MacWhirters) embracing in bed and amusing sketches of farm animals.
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