- John Knox
- A View of Loch Lomond
- signed l.l.: JOHN KNOX; titled and signed on a label attached to the stretcher: A VIEW OF LOCH LOMOND/ BY/ JOHN KNOX
- oil on canvas
Unfortunately, little is known about John Knox’s life. The Glasgow directories describe him variously as a portrait painter, teacher of drawing and landscape painter. However, Knox’s landscape work is known to have been in demand by 1821, the time of the inaugural exhibition of the Glasgow Institution where Knox showed A View of the Clyde from Dalnottar Hill. Moreover he is thought to have studied with Alexander Nasmyth, described posthumously by Sir David Wilkie as ‘the founder of the Landscape Painting School in Scotland’ (B. Smith and S. Skipwith, A History of Scottish Art: The Fleming Collection, 2003, p30). Knox’s landscapes are notably less influenced by Italian Neo-classicism of the 18th Century than those of Nasmyth, adopting instead an inclination towards the Romantic. Knox lived in Glasgow from 1799 until he moved to London in 1828. He returned to Glasgow in 1836 but lived out the last five years of his life in Keswick.
This panoramic view is taken from the northern slopes of Ben Lomond, whose peak can be seen on the left at 3,192 feet. Beyond can be seen the upper reaches of Loch Lomond and to the right is the western end of Loch Katrine. The two highest peaks behind Loch Katrine are almost certainly the distinctive twin peaks of Stob Binnein and Ben More and the far distant central peak is likely Ben Lui. Whilst at first the painting may appear entirely topographical in its detailing of the rock formations, Knox has also imbued his work with aspects of the Sublime. In the mid-eighteenth century, Edmund Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry (1757) prompted a revival of interest in the emotional possibilities of landscape. The heightened viewpoint adopted in the present work increases the Sublime sense, described by Burke, which invoked both fear and attraction. Knox’s landscape is also thrown into impressive perspective by the choice inclusion of figures and animals in the lower-left and lower-right, as well as rising smoke from a mountain bothy in the valley below. A pair of panoramic views depicting the South-West and North-West vistas from Ben Lomond are held in the collection of the Glasgow Art Gallery and a very similar pair of views, previously in the collection of the Duke of Hamilton, were sold in these rooms 9 July 1986.
The present lot should also be considered in concordance with the proliferation of literature on the West of Scotland over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, most notably that of Walter Scott. His Lady of the Lake inspired particular interest in the area of the Trossachs in which Loch Lomond lies, just fourteen miles north of Glasgow. As such, Knox forms an important part of that group of Romantic artists of the 19th Century, both artistic and literary, who seized upon the dramatic features of the natural Scottish landscape. His landscapes adopt characters of their own: their ambitious emotional effects strengthened by a stunning visual accuracy.