Joseph Farquharson was a tremendously skilled and popular painter who became renowned for his snowscapes, particularly those featuring sheep, and his countryside scenes. Many of his paintings were completed in the North East of Scotland at Finzean.
Born in Edinburgh in 1846, Farquharson studied first under Peter Graham R.A. and then at the Life School at the Royal Scottish Academy. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1873 and was elected an Associate in 1900. In 1880 he travelled to Paris where he studied under Carolus Duran, and in 1885 he went to Egypt. He died in 1935.
Sickert made Farquharson the subject of an essay comparing him with Courbet and preferring Farquharson. He extolled Farquharson´s tension and realism and criticised the pretension of his polar opposites, the Bloomsbury Group, whose writ he said fortunately does not run in the North of Scotland.
The remarkable realism of Farquharson´s work can be attributed to his desire to work in plein air. However, this had to be carried out in a way which was adapted to the rigours of the Scottish climate: by constructing a painting hut on wheels, complete with a stove and large glass window for observing the scenery. Also, to achieve as realistic a result as possible when painting the sheep which frequently appear in his snowscapes, he owned a flock of imitation sheep which could be placed as required in the landscape of his choice. The unusual titles of many of Farquharson´s paintings are worthy of note, and many of them were taken from poems by Burns, Milton, Shakespeare and Gray.
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