Visit to the McManus

As part of a class exercise we visited the McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery & Museum, in order to built on our critical response skills. Here are my results:

Gallery Visited: The McManus

Location: Dundee

A little about the gallery: Recently refurbished and also a museum. Has a permanent gallery displaying are from previous centuries as well as a temporary gallery which changes (currently displaying roman antiquities and related work).

Duration: 2-3 hours

Activity: Critically respond to a piece.

Portrait of James Scott Skinner, “The Strathspey King”

John Hunter, 1913

james scott skinner comparison


Initial response:

Lots of character. Classic old gruff man. Looks like great fun at the pub. Maybe sexist and racist though.


An old kilted man of stature sits in his chair, violin in hand. He wears a fur coat, and looks irritated at having to sit still for the portrait, as if he has places to be.

There is a roughness in the brushwork that adds to his gruff nature and compliments his aged and weathered face.

The background and coat are a bit desaturated, which brings the colours in the face forward. Red in the waistcoat is also strong and draws attention to his traditional attire.


There is a contrast between the lordly clothing of the subject and his gruff, weathered face. He is both serious and jovial. Composition and brushwork lend towards the idea of him be adventurous in his eagerness to leave the chair and the rough brushwork. This breathes life into the subject and gives a good idea of his character.

Critical view:

The piece certainly succeeds at presenting personality. But it presents both a regal nobleman and a mischievous adventurer (it feels almost as if the violin should be replaced with a blunderbuss). This contrast confuses the piece a bit and makes it quite comical.

Reflective view & influence:

I really like this piece, the rough brushwork works well with the weathered face to add life to the subject. I would really like to replicate such brushwork in my digital painting, but previous attempts at this have not ended well.

The piece also shows me how the whole body can be used in a portrait, even when the focus is on the face. Normally I create busts but here is an example of the full body contributing to attitude and personality without being a distraction.

Action response:

  • Return to oil painting,
  • Try to implement oil painting techniques into photoshop,
    • Find/create brushes to achieve similar effects.

Posted on February 6, 2015, in Misc.. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Visit to the McManus.

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