Joseph Farquharson is famous for his striking landscapes of the Scottish countryside. He is most well known in particular for his compelling bleak and consuming snow scenes, often featuring flocks of helpless sheep. These paintings would earn him the nickname "Frozen Mutton’ Farquharson".
Farquharson was clearly a natural artist from a young age. His father, a doctor working in Edinburgh, was also an amateur artist, and would allow his son the use of his studio every weekend. He bought Farquharson his first set of paints when he was 12, and it was only a year later the budding artist would exhibit at the Royal Scottish Academy.
Farquharson would go on to receive an arts education of the highest quality, first at the Board of Manufacturers school, established to encourage arts in Scotland, and then at the Royal Scottish Academy schools. Along the way, Farquharson would receive additional tutoring from artist and family friend Peter Graham (1836-1921). Graham’s passionately atmospheric works, often capturing the wild whims of the North Sea as it batters the Scottish coast, would have a great impact upon Farquharson’s work.
Following a Scottish education, Farquharson would journey to Paris, to receive instruction from esteemed painter and tutor Carolus Duran (1837-1917). During his time in Duran’s studio, Farquharson would form a strong friendship with fellow artist and student John Singer Sergeant (1856-1925).
Duran invoked in him a delicate, sophisticated hand in the application of paint upon the canvas. Of strong colourisation, evoking the essence of nature. On the whole, the French move towards naturalism that was occurring in the second half of the 19th century was influencing Scottish landscape painters. Where romanticism had prevailed, deferment to nature itself was becoming more common. Indeed, Farquharson’s works have often been compared to the realist works of Gustave Courbet (1819-1877), with an uncompromising view of nature, in all its moods.
Despite trips to Paris and also to Egypt, the Scottish landscape offered Farquharson the greatest inspiration. He would often paint scenes surrounding his family’s estate of Finzean, doing so ‘plein air,’ creating a cart to carry his supplies and cover to protect him against the often-inclement weather.
There is a crisp touch to his works which make the viewer feel as if they are within the painting, stood within the scene. Feeling the warm glow of the setting sun upon their face, the bitter chill of a blizzard numbing their nose. Moors and woodlands are richly saturated in earthy tones which summon the smells of damp dirt, frittering ferns, dewy grass.
Farquharson was noted both for his scenes of a deep set, desolate winter, as well as his ability to capture the transcendent glory of the sun as it rose and fell. Most of all, his ability to capture scenes of the Scottish countryside with a careful, masterly hand earnt him a famed reputation.
Farquharson divided his time between Scotland and London, setting up a studio in the southern capital in order to capitalise on the larger numbers of potential patrons dwelling there. This paid off handsomely for Farquharson. He exhibited over 200 works at the Royal Academy, becoming an associate, and then a full member in 1915. His works were also reproduced as engravings to be printed for wider distribution.
Farquharson would inherit the Finzean estate from his older brother in 1918. His later work offers up scenes of its surroundings with a much more impressionistic verve. He lets go of his sharp realism and leans more into the spirit of nature, communicating it through looser brushstrokes whilst retaining his canny colourisation.
Upon Farquharson’s death in 1935, a committee was set up in Finzean to raise funds for the erection of a memorial to honour his memory and legacy. It is unclear whether this came to fruition, however a well resides in the area embossed with a plaque dedicated to Farquharson. His works are now held in numerous galleries across the UK, including at the Royal Academy and the National Galleries of Scotland.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland.
First exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy.
First exhibited at the Royal Academy.
Studied in Paris under Carolus Duran.
Travelled regularly to Egypt.
Elected an associate of the Royal Academy.
Married Violet Evelyn Hay.
Elected a member of the Royal Academy.
Inherited the Finzean Estate.
Elected a Senior Royal Academician.
Died in Finzean, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.