Neolithic art from the Highlands includes maceheads from, for example, Airdens in Sutherland. Fragments of Pictish art also survive. Most consist of sculptures of boulders, slabs and shrines. Symbol stone carvings depict fauna, shapes and pictorial objects. Metalwork includes the Pictish brooch and gold jewellery such as was found near Dingwall in the early 1980s.
Celtic Christian Art
Early Celtic monasteries included workshops for metalworkers and stonemasons. Celtic stone carving is perhaps best represented by the ringed crosses at Iona. Some of the work of manuscript illumination found in The Book of Kells was also done at Iona.
West Highland School of Sculpture
Under the patronage of the Lordship of the Isles, at its most powerful in the 14th to the 16th centuries, schools of sculpture emerged. The schools created crosses, grave slabs, effigies and tomb crests, examples of which can be found at Iona and at Lochaline. Iona had its own school of carving, directed by the families of Ó Brolcháin and Ó Cuinn.
Highland Wilderness as Backdrop
The landscape of the Highlands has attracted artists as famous as Turner. Crags and heather moorland provided the backdrop to many of Landseer's most famous paintings including 'Monarch of the Glen'. Others influenced from the 18th century onwards include Horatio MacCulloch and William MacTaggart. In the 20th century, a revival of interest in Celtic art was reflected in the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh and John Duncan, and more directly relating to the Highlands in that of Patrick Geddes and W. G. Gillies.
The visual arts in the Highlands and Islands maintain standards of excellence today through the work of Julie Brook, Ian Stephen, Steve Dilworth, Will MacLean, Liz Ogilvie, Robert Callender, Diane Maclean and others. The visual arts are well supported too by galleries such as An Tuireann in Portree on the Isle of Skye, Taigh Chearsabhagh in North Uist , and An Lanntair in Stornoway, Isle of Lewis.
If a book listed in the bibliography below is available from the Highland Libraries it will be indicated by a book icon -
Highlands and Islands Arts Ltd
Visual Arts Guide
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