Nae Oil Painting









I was intrigued by this portrait used to advertise the recent 250th Anniversary Tribute to Nathaniel Gow (1763 – 1831) held in Edinburgh. Unfortunately I was unable to attend and I have not got round to asking anyone who should know but I wonder where the image came from and where the original resides. I had forgotten about it until I came across the following news report from The Dundee Evening Telegraph, 26 September 1929 (10):

photo (4)

Now, unless subject to some really serious Adobe Photoshop work, the image used to advertise the concert is, as they say in Glasgow “nae oil painting”. I looks to me like a coloured lithograph although that effect could occur if a poor photograph of an original image has been processed to make it reproducible.

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Christopher D. S. Field, ‘Gow, Nathaniel (1763–1831)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 15 March 2015) quotes McGregor (J. McG. [J. McGregor], ‘Memoir of Nathaniel Gow’, in A collection of airs, reels and strathspeys, being the posthumous compositions of the late Niel Gow (1837), 4–7) who says that “a spirited likeness” of him was painted by John Syme. Is the image above ‘spirited’? It is noted that the painting, in oils, by Syme was “untraced since 1837” but there is also a reference to a “photolithograph, 1895, reproduced in Glen” which is, presumably, J. Glen, ‘Nathaniel Gow’, The Glen collection of Scottish dance music, 2 (1895), x–xiv in the list of references. G. S Emmerson, Rantin’ Pipe and Trembin’ String. (London, 1971) and M. A. Alburger Scottish Fiddlers and their Music. (London, 1983) both include grayscale images similar to that above. I have not examined Glen but it might carry an artist, or lithographer’s name.

So, it looks like the original oil painting is lost (let me know if I am wrong here) but that it might have still been around in the late 1920s. And what of the Niel Gow? Could that be the painting in the collection of Perth and Kinross Council?

Of further interest is the reproduction in the Dictionary of National Biography of youthful drawing of Nathaniel playing fiddle by John Kay said to be from the National Portrait Gallery (i.e. London, I presume). That’s a wholly new one to me and a real cracker.