John Clayton Adams

The Pass Of Killiecrankie

John Clayton Adams

The Pass Of Killiecrankie

This fine late 19th-century oil painting by British artist John Clayton Adams (1840-1906) depicts The Pass Of Killiecrankie, a picturesque wooded gorge in Pitlochry, Scotland. It was shown at The Fine Art Society, London, in 1896.

A student of nature in the truest sense, Clayton Adams captured the natural world diligently and with high fidelity. The shimmering Derwent River, the rolling Surrey Hills, and the lofty delights of the Scottish mountains were a muse for his analytical eye. His father, Charles H Adams, was a lecturer in astronomy, and one can imagine a childhood immersed in tales of the solar system amid a family home abundant with charts and detailed draughtsmanship. The young man was evidently inspired to draw and soon sent to Bloomsbury Art School to train under William Wilthieu Fenn (c.1827-1906).

At 23, he debuted at the prestigious Royal Academy with a depiction of a ‘Cottage In Devonshire’. At the time, landscape artists were fringe players, somewhat frowned upon by the Academy elite. ‘Natural’ landscape painters were seen as second-rate when compared to those dedicated to history, genre or portraits. A review published in the Magazine of Art, 1896, refers to them as “outsiders, in high favour with the public, respected by their brethren, and admitted on all sides to be well worthy to continue the work which was begun for them by Constable, Turner, and a host of others, but outsiders they remain.”

Regardless, Clayton Adams continued to study nature sympathetically, working predominantly outdoors, immersed in both the scientific and poetic aspects of a view. He married a poet, Mary Frances Tupper, and the two surely travelled together - excited by the next sojourn - captivated by the changing seasons.

Here, in this exquisite work from 1895, he’s captured the majestic River Garry as it meanders through an iconic gorge flanked by dense woodland. It was created while on an extended visit to Scotland during the summer of 1895. He was so taken by the scenery that he returned with around 40 works of various sizes, which were shown at The Fine Art Society the following year. A report in the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News refers to the painting.

“Mr. Clayton Adams sends almost as many paintings, and they are larger than the preceding ones. Most of these are very characteristic of Scotch scenery. ‘July on the Feardar’ and ‘The Pass of Killiecrankie’, both deserve notice.”

Over the span of his 40-year career, John Clayton Adams exhibited extensively at the Royal Academy and Royal Society of British Artists, particularly with views in Surrey, Kent, Hampshire and, later, Scotland. Today, his works are held in numerous public collections including the V&A Museum and Russell-Cotes Art Gallery.

Signed/dated lower left and held within its original gilt frame.

Learn more about John Clayton Adams in our directory.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 42½” x 32½” / 108cm x 83cm
Year of creation: 1895
Labels & Inscriptions: Label with title on the reverse, possibly relating to when it was shown at The Fine Art Society.
Provenance: Private collection, UK.
Exhibited: London, The Fine Art Society, 1896.
Condition: Assessed and approved by our conservator. Cleaned. Frame with light marks and signs of age.
Artist’s auction maximum: £22,070 for ‘Going to Market, Surrey’, Oil on canvas, Sotheby's, 19th Century European Paintings And Sculpture, New York, 1993 (lot 241).
Our reference: BRV1540

Conservation & History

We care profoundly about our role as custodians and every piece in the collection has been assessed by our conservator. When required, we undertake professional restoration carefully using reversible techniques and adopt a light touch to retain the aged charm of each work. We also restore frames rather than replace them as many are original and selected by the artists themselves.

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