Oil painting, A Winter Morning, c1900, by William Darling McKay RSA, acquired by East Lothian Council in 2013 with an NFA grant of £1,590
This is one of a number of oil paintings in our collection by the East Lothian artist William Darling McKay (1844-1924). It is believed to date from around 1900 and, like many of the artist’s works, portrays a typical Scottish country scene highly popular at the turn of the nineteenth century. In this agricultural landscape we are drawn to the presence of a young shepherd in the foreground tending his flock on frosty pastures set against a pink-tinted morning sky. Although McKay was known to use local scenery as the inspiration for many of his works, the location of this particular site remains unclear prompting one to wonder if the painting may represent a native yet bygone place, possibly one that the artist himself was indeed familiar with.
Born in Gifford in 1844, McKay was the son of the local schoolmaster. He went on to study at The Trustee’s Drawing Academy, now known as Edinburgh College of Art, and later spent time in Holland, which was said to have greatly influenced his work. We know from other works held in our collections that McKay had a fervour for painting well known East Lothian landmarks, such as his Sunset View of Aberlady, Low Tide and Autumn Evening Haddington, 1900 which he presented to the town in 1922. Although the trend for traditional rural artwork has somewhat declined in recent years, the works by McKay held by East Lothian Council are regarded as highly significant, not only for their value and high quality but also as they provide a tangible link to the region’s rich agricultural heritage and long-forgotten past. A typical work by the artist might today be expected to sell for upwards of £3,000 with A Winter Morning achieving £3,120 at auction in 2013.
To explore more of our catalogued works by William Darling McKay you can click on the link below or search the BBC’s Your Paintings website BBC – Your Paintings
Museum Collections Assistant
East Lothian Council