The Highland Whiskey Still by Edwin Landseer


The Highland Whiskey Still


Edwin Landseer

Ref GM1576
Type Fine Art Print
Image Size 28" x 22" (71 x 56 cm)
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This internationally renowned work depicts one of the many illicit whisky stills that were to be seen in rural Scotland in the early nineteenth century. Along with poaching, illegal distilling was a prominent feature of Highland life during this period, and was a symbol of the inhabitants’ defiance of the draconian laws imposed on them. This is perhaps the most evocative of a series of works in which the artist explored aspects of life in the Highlands. A picturesque scene, with the fierce Highland spirit echoed by the wild landscape, this is nonetheless an unflinching depiction of the bleak poverty which led many families to contravene the law on excise duties. The notion of the degradation of innocence by depravity is central to this work: the roguish father terrifies his two children into cowering submission while, in the centre of the painting, the whisky still dominates proceedings from the shadows. This painting was produced between 1826 and 1829, and was one of a relatively small number of contemporary works owned by the Duke of Wellington. First exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1829, The Highland Whisky Still met with great critical acclaim: the Examiner called it “picturesque, nationally characteristic, well coloured, and wild as the Highlands in which the scene is placed,” while the critic of The Times asserted that “the details are beautifully painted, and the arrangement of the colour very judicious, but the great charm of the picture is its uncommonly striking effect.”