The Sea has been a decisive force in Scotland's history. From earliest times the inland waters have been fished for food. Later those bent on conquest arrived by sea. Scotland prospered as more sophisticated boat design enabled trading routes with Europe to be opened up. In more recent times, the fishing and oil industries have been at the very heart of Scotland's economy.
It's hardly surprising then that for many centuries Scottish artists have portrayed the sea. It was the dominant theme in the work of the great 19th century artist William McTaggart. Storm tossed waves, rain laden clouds or momentary afternoon showers were all captured by McTaggart's quickfire brushwork. Other artists followed his example. The sheltered waters around Iona became the summer home of some of the Colourist artists. The northern isles were depicted by Stanley Cursiter, the fishing villages of Fife by William Gillies. The sea held a special fascination for 20th century artist John Houston. Inspired by German painters such as Emil Nolde, his seascapes were painted with great freedom. In contrast is the work of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, who moved to Cornwall soon after Art College. Her response to the sea off the Cornish coast is quite different, both in colour and subject.