Head of Scottish Pictures
Scottish Art / Attributed to Sir George Harvey, PRSA (British, 1806-1876) The Curlers 33 x 76.5 cm. (13 x 30 1/8 in.)
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With Aitken & Dott, Edinburgh
Private collection of Gilbert McClung (former President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club), thence by descent
Sir George Harvey is best known for his Scottish history painting and contemporary narrative scenes. Caw referred to his genre painting as "dealing with everyday life of the people....which he loved to paint, he left work of historical value. They embody the feelings of a contemporary with the veracity of an eye-witness. (James L. Caw, Scottish Painting, Past & Present, 1620-1908, Edinburgh and London, 1908, p.113).
Curling, one of Scotland's national sports, has been described as the 'Roarin' Game', with the roar coming from the noise of a granite stone as it travels over the ice, originally outside on frozen lochs. The exact origins of the game are unclear, but curling is widely believed to be one of the world's oldest team sports. The first rules were drawn up in Scotland, and they were formally adopted as the 'Rules in Curling' by the Grand Caledonian Curling Club, which was formed in Edinburgh in 1838 and became the sport's governing body. Four years later, following a demonstration of curling on the ballroom floor of Scone Palace near Perth by the Earl of Mansfield during a visit by Queen Victoria, the Queen was so fascinated by the game that in 1843 she gave permission for the Club's name to be changed to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.
This present work conveys the sense of drama, excitement and humour that can be enjoyed in a curling match. The players themselves reflect the whole spectrum of rural society. The scene also provides details such as the equipment used in the 1830's; such as the size of stones and how the crampets are attached to the player's shoes and galoshes with straps for example.
The larger, original painting, now owned by The National Galleries of Scotland (acquired in 1995, NG 2641), proved to be immensely popular when it was exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1835. Harvey made a number of copies to meet demand. The whereabouts of three of these smaller copies are known; one which is attributed to Harvey and owned by the National Galleries of Scotland (acquired 1923, NG 1579), one that came up for sale with Sotheby's in September 1987, and lastly, the present work, which was acquired by Gilbert McClung (former President of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club) in the 1940's.
McGlung gave permission for this painting to be reproduced for 'The Scottish Curler' Christmas card in 1965. The scene was printed on a four-page card, costing fifteen shillings per dozen, and advertised as "the best action study of old-time curling, depicting as it does all the anxiety and keenness associated with playing of an important shot. The animation of the play springs from the picture to communicate with the viewer." (The Scottish Curler, September 1965, vol.12 no.1, p.5).