J. McIntosh Patrick

Winter in Angus


Not on display

J. McIntosh Patrick 1907–1998
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 756 × 1016 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1935

Display caption

James McIntosh Patrick was born in Dundee, the son of an architect. He studied at Glasgow School of Art, but has continued to live and work close to his native city ever since. His work can be described as possessing a clarity of draughtsmanship and a sure sense of composition. The Angus countryside around Dundee has always been his preferred subject matter, and this painting is no exception. He likes to take his ideas directly from the natural landscape, and then amalgamate various views when back in his studio. This picture entered the Tate Gallery's collection in the year in which it was painted, when the artist was twenty-eight.

Gallery label, August 2004

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

Catalogue entry


Oil on canvas, 756 x 1016 mm (29 3/4 x 40 in)
Inscribed by the artist ‘McIntosh | Patrick /35’ bottom left.
Stamped on back ‘Prepared by | C ROBERSON & Co Ltd | 99 Long Acre, London’ centre left. Inscribed by the artist on label in black ink ‘PATRICK J MCINTOSH | “Winter in Angus”’ removed from back.

Purchased from the artist by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1935

Summer Exhibition, Royal Academy, London, May-Aug. 1935 (411)
Palace of the Arts, Empire Exhibition, Scotland, Bellahouston Park, Glasgow, 1938 (116)
The Chantrey Collection, Royal Academy Winter Exhibition, London, Jan.-March 1949 (235)
Scottish Painters, British Council tour 1949-50, Toledo Museum of Art, Ohio, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Elsie Perrin Williams Memorial Art Museum, London (Ontario), Winnipeg Art Gallery (44)
Paintings, Etchings and Drawings by J. McIntosh Patrick RSA, ROI, ARE, Dundee Art Galleries and Museums, Sept.-Oct. 1967 (38)
Extended loan to Aberdeen Art Gallery, 1970-5
McIntosh Patrick, Fine Art Society, Edinburgh, Jan.-March 1980 (no cat.)
Some Chantrey Favourites, Royal Academy, London, March-May 1981 (25, repr.)
James McIntosh Patrick, Dundee Art Gallery, July-Aug. 1987, Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museum, Sept., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Oct.-Nov., Fine Art Society, Nov.-Dec. (46, repr. in col., p.37, pl.6)
Within these Shores; A Selection of Works from the Chantrey Bequest 1883-1985, Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, June-Sept. 1989 (19, repr. p.62)
James McIntosh Patrick, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, Feb.-April 1997 (no cat. no.)

‘Foreword’, Watercolours of North Africa, Italy and Elsewhere by J. McIntosh Patrick, exh. cat., Fine Art Society, London 1946 [p.1]
Charles Carter, ‘The Winter Landscape in Art’, Scottish Art Review, vol.5, no.2, 1955, p.6 (repr. p.5)
William Blain, ‘Introduction’, Paintings, Etchings and Drawings by J. McIntosh Patrick RSA, ROI, ARE, exh. cat., Dundee Art Galleries and Museums 1967 [p.3]
Roger Billcliffe, James McIntosh Patrick, exh. cat., Dundee Art Galleries and Museums 1987, pp.20-2
William Hardie, Scottish Painting 1837 to the Present, London 1990, p.147
Duncan MacMillan, Scottish Art 1460-1990, Edinburgh 1990, p.359
Vivienne Couldrey, Painters of Scotland: A Celebration of Scottish Landscape, Nairn 1994, p.110

Royal Academy Illustrated, 1935, p.114
Ian Jeffrey, The British Landscape 1920-50, London 1984, pl.45

Winter in Angus was painted on a commercially prepared canvas of a standard 30 x 40 inch format favoured by McIntosh Patrick for landscapes during this period. Pencil outlines are visible in the hills and the buildings. The application of paint within these areas was quite even, although layers in the sky have caused visible craquelure.[1] A variety of techniques were used. The distant trees were rubbed down before fine strokes were added for the branches, and areas in the foreground were scraped back with a blade. The stonework of the pigeon loft on the right was painted in heavy impasto, while the pointing of the masonry of the main building was ruled into wet paint. The details of the nearest trees were the last to be added.

The complexity of the technique seems to derive from Patrick’s experience with etching. Roger Billcliffe has noted that the surface of the contemporary The Three Sisters, Glencoe, 1933-4 (Texas Instruments Incorporated, Dallas)[2] ‘was rubbed down and areas polished and finely retouched ... even washed ... over with a solution of caustic soda’.[3] Referring to Winter in Angus the artist told him: ‘I had a way of putting on paint and then rubbing something all over it to soften the image and then sharpening it all up by careful reworking. I let the paint make the suggestions into something more solid. In other words these are abstractions which gradually were turned into realist pictures.’[4] This suggests that the main areas of the composition had an underlying rationale comparable to the design of the early Renaissance paintings which the artist admired. Patrick laid out the geometry of the composition using the Golden Section (the proportional ratio 1:1.618). The eave of the main building falls on a line crossing from the Golden Section point measured down the left side of the canvas to that measured up the right side; the farm wall (by the cart) lies on the opposite diagonal. The line of the base of the wall of the main building projects to the same point on the right, while projections of the top of its roof, and that of the pigeon loft, rise from these points to about five-sevenths of the height of the canvas. Both the right end of the main building, and its inner junction with its porch, fall on the Golden Section of the width of the canvas.

This process also helps to explain Patrick’s ability to synthesise different components, as the works of the 1930s rarely show a single location. Billcliffe has described the painter’s studio practice, whereby he ‘would assemble his sketches, isolating a favourite motif and combining it with a suitable partner until the composition seemed “right”’.[5] Of Winter in Angus, Patrick told the Tate that: ‘It does not represent an actual scene, though various parts of the painting are based on actual places.’[6] In fact, it brings together the landscape at Glenalmond, west of Perth, with the fortified Manor House at Powrie Castle near Dundee.

A preparatory study of the background survives, which is inscribed ‘Distant Landscape of “Winter in Angus” drawn from Art Room window Glenalmond Coll.’ (Collection of the artist’s family).[7] The painter taught part-time at Glenalmond College, and told Billcliffe that he had chosen the view because he ‘wanted a complicated background’.[8] The view is to the north towards the peaks of Creagna Criche and Craig Gibbon. The drawing was executed on graph paper to facilitate enlargement. The annotations show some of the concerns which were also transferred to the painting. Both the ‘group of pines’ and the ‘pink patch’, which form the focus of the middle distance in the painting, are noted. The compositionally important hedge snaking from the right is also remarked upon. The detail of the drawing - which demonstrates the textured hatching of an engraver - also shows how faithfully it was rendered in the painting, with only the serpentine line of trees in the centre being exaggerated in order to link the two parts of the composition.

In the same account to Billcliffe, Patrick explained that he had painted and made an etching of the Castle on a previous occasion; he showed a work entitled Powrie Castle, Angus at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh in 1933. It is clear that the depiction in Winter in Angus was not straightforward, as he ‘created an imaginary viewpoint, up high. ... [and] decided to put in the pigeon loft but, apart from that, the rest of the foreground is just invented’. In 1996 the painter was asked if a detailed drawing of the Castle had been used by way of preparation. He responded by donating an etching of Powrie Castle, c.1932 to the Tate and confirming that Winter in Angus ‘was based on this’ print.[9] Certainly the details of the building, the fall of light and the aspect from which it is viewed are very close (in the painting a window has been added to the porch and the left-most chimney made finer). There are two fundamental changes in the painting: the imaginary raised viewpoint required the rethinking of the building’s appearance, while the season introduced snow where there had been none. The overall compositions are comparable: the ancient structure in the print stands in the place of the pigeon loft, and a square building with pyramidal roof forms part of the farm wall in both images, as do the people conversing by a wheelbarrow. The other farm buildings were not used in the painting. Writing of the orientation of the Castle, William Hardie has added that ‘Patrick has turned the building round by one hundred and eighty degrees, as he shows the south instead of the north elevation of the building facing uphill; for the excellent reason, no doubt, that the north elevation is blank’.[10]

The practice of bringing together details from more than one location was not without precedent. Billcliffe notes that as a student Patrick supplied sketches of France for a composition by the Head of Painting at Glasgow, Maurice Greiffenhagen.[11] It may also reflect Patrick’s understanding of the compositional methods of Renaissance painters. His admiration for Pieter Breughel was evident in Winter in Angus; Duncan Macmillan has noted the widespread influence of the Flemish painter on Patrick’s contemporaries.[12] As well as the detail of land and season, Patrick had learnt from Breughel the advantage of the raised viewpoint. The immediate fall of the land had the effect of drawing the viewer into the composition towards the people, a device which Patrick perfected over the course of the 1930s.

The circumstances under which Winter in Angus was painted were slightly unusual. The Three Sisters Glencoe, 1933-4 had been rejected by the Royal Academy in London in 1934, but was placed by Patrick’s dealer Harold Dickins in the Fine Art Society nearby. The painstaking method of the silvery painting had taken two years, but interest in it was renewed by newspaper coverage of the opening of a new road through Glencoe. F.L. Griggs, who already knew Patrick’s etchings, recommended that the painting be purchased under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest. The opportunity was missed but Griggs encouraged the painter to submit a work to the following Royal Academy, which he could recommend. As Billcliffe has commented, this meant that Winter in Angus had to be completed in a matter of months in early 1935.[13] It is technically less complex as a result, but the choice of the limited tonalities of another snow scene suggests the painter’s reliance on the earlier success.

After Winter in Angus had entered the Tate, Dickins suggested the completion of the seasonal cycle.[14] According to the painter, his dealer proposed ‘to publish four collotype reproductions of the four seasons’.[15] The other compositions, painted on the same size of canvas, were: Springtime in Eskdale 1935 (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool), Autumn, Kinnordy 1936 (Dundee Art Galleries and Museums) and Midsummer in East Fife, 1936 (Aberdeen Art Gallery). They were produced over an extended period and were immediately purchased by public collections, so that they were not hung together until the painter’s 1967 retrospective. In 1970-5, Winter in Angus was on extended loan to Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Matthew Gale
October 1997

[1] Tate conservation files.

[2] Reproduced in Roger Billcliffe, James McIntosh Patrick, exh. cat., Dundee Art Gallery 1987, p.36, pl.5.
[3] Ibid., p.19.
[4] Ibid., p.21.

[5] Ibid.
[6] McIntosh Patrick, letter, 9 November 1959, Tate catalogue files.

[7] Shown in Dundee Art Gallery 1987, no.47.
[8] Billcliffe 1987, p.21.

[9] Letter to the author, 9 April 1996, Tate catalogue files; Powrie Castle, c.1932, Tate Archive 961.48.
[10] William Hardie, Scottish Painting 1837 to the Present, London 1990, p.147.

[11] Billcliffe 1987, p.10.
[12] Duncan Macmillan, Scottish Art 1460-1990, Edinburgh 1990, p.362.

[13] Billcliffe 1987, pp.20-1.

[14] Ibid.
[15] Letter to the author, 9 April 1996.


You might like

In the shop