Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street indistinctly inscribed (lower right) oil on canvas 156 x 125 cm. (61 7/16 x 49 3/16 in.) in original gilt and gesso frame
PROVENANCE: Purchased by the vendor's great grandfather Thence by descent
Sam Bough is one of the most celebrated and prolific British landscape painters of the later 19th Century. Remarkably this recently rediscovered masterpiece may never have been exhibited.
Bough was born in Carlisle, and became a theatre scene painter in Manchester and Glasgow before moving to Edinburgh in 1855. On arrival in the city, Bough, a Bohemian character whom John Phillip depicted looking like a 'gypsy king or brigand chief' (S. Gilpin, Sam Bough R.S.A., his life and works, London, 1905, p.99), declared: "I found I couldn't stand Edinburgh, so at the end of the week I mizzled and went with Alick (Fraser Jr) to Cumberland and Westmorland." (ibid. p.96)
Bough had lived in Hamilton and worked extensively in Cadzow Forest with Horatio McCulloch and Alexander Fraser. He was wild and erratic but his work could be brilliant, and he nursed a long-standing feud with his great friend and rival McCulloch over a wager. Robert Louis Stevenson said in his obituary: "a painting by Bough was an act of dashing conduct like a capture of a fort in war."
However Bough settled in the capital and executed some of his most significant Edinburgh pictures circa 1862, when this is likely to have been painted. Rarely, though, were they as iconic as this view south over Princes Street, the Gardens and the Castle. Bough's memory was legendary, particularly for cloud and atmospheric effects, and these are put to full use in the light summer sky, foliage, dappling sunlight and steam from the trains arriving at Waverley Station. The deft touch and spontaneity of the foreground in particular, describing elegant figures perambulating and carriages on the cobbles, have much in common with 'Pre-Impressionists' such as Eugene Boudin.