Scottish artist William Beattie Brown undertook many explorations of his homeland’s highlands with his brush. He created richly atmospheric works imbued with the truth of nature as well as his own artistic verve.
Brown was first educated at Leith High School, on the edge of Edinburgh. Here, his artistic talent was first discovered, and he found an apprenticeship with the highly reputed Ballantine glass-stained works. However, his skill stretched beyond stained glass, and soon enough Brown was enrolled at the Trustees’ Art Academy. Here, under the guidance of esteemed artist Robert Scott Lauder (1803-1869), Brown received a thorough artistic education.
Alongside studies in Scotland, Brown also spent some time studying in Belgium. Here, he practised with watercolours. However, it was oil paintings that preoccupied the majority of his oeuvre, and with these, he saw much success in exhibiting.
Beattie Brown possesses a sleekness in the wielding of his brush which adds a gorgeous haze of atmosphere whilst never failing to neglect the finer details. There is a true sense of naturalism to his works, in the pinpointing of every turgid lump of mossy grass, each roughly hewn rock. The vivacious spirit of highland water as it tumbles tenaciously downstream is captured with fantastic energy. Even in stillness, water adds a captivating energy to his works, reflecting a glorious sunrise.
Brown was praised for his ‘touches of nature that show the poet as well as the painter.’ Indeed, whilst there is a naturalism much in tune with developments in landscape painting across the second half of the 19th century, Brown also pays homage to his Scottish predecessors. Painters such as Horatio McCulloch (1805-1867), who defined the highlands as a place of wildness and sublime atmosphere. To marry it with his stylish realism means Brown leaves no stone unturned, no mountain unscaled.
Brown was a frequent exhibitor at both the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Academy in London. Indeed, he was elevated first to the position of associate member of the Royal Scottish Academy, before becoming a full-fledged member in 1884.
He was also able to procure work as an artist from other sources. He worked for a time illustrating medical publications, as well as finding employment as an art restorer under dealer Henry Doig. Brown would marry his daughter, Esther Love Doig, in 1858.
Yet it is his landscapes of the Scottish wilds for which Brown is most well-known. The Highlands are elevated further, the lowlands just as celebrated. Brown was a popular painter of his time, and his works remain passionate examples of Scottish landscape painting in the 19th century.
Today, a number are held at the Royal Scottish Academy and other museums across the country such as in Stirling and Glasgow.
Born in Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland.
Exhibited annually at the Royal Scottish Academy.
Married Esther Love Doig.
Exhibited frequently at the Royal Academy.
Elected an associate member of the Royal Scottish Academy.
Exhibited at the South of Scotland Fine Art Exhibition.
Became a member of the Royal Scottish Academy.
Died in Edinburgh, Scotland.