The Sutherland Children: Victorian Sentimentality in the Far North.

"The Pet Fawn". A Victorian chromolithograph c.1860 after a painting by Landseer.

Sutherland is not a region that inspires much sentimentality: the landscape is too harsh and wild to invite such sentiment. But I came across this image recently, a Victorian chromolithograph c.1860 titled at the bottom "The Pet Fawn." It is actually a copy of a painting by Sir Edwin Landseer, which is known as "The Sutherland Children."

It was painted in 1837, presumably for the Duke of Sutherland as it depicts two of his children, Lady Evelyn Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, and her younger brother, George, later 3rd Duke of Sutherland. I have been unable to discover where the painting can now be found - quite possibly in Dunrobin Castle, or at least in the present Duke's possession. The Castle can be seen in the distance.

My chromolithograph does not hint at the quality of Landseer's painting. He was a superb portrayer of animals, and here we have, as well as the fawn, three dogs, the depiction of which I know inspires enthusiasm and admiration from dog lovers the world over.  I can direct you, for example, to , where Roisin, working in the Aldham Robarts library extolls the virtues of this image.

Yet, to many modern eyes, it would seem to be an overly-sentimental portrait that, when added to the Duke's low standing in connection with the Highland Clearances, has little to do with the County and the region.

Landseer's work rarely escapes a slight veneer of sentimentality. In his "Drover's Departure", for example, the known qualities of Highland life are acknowledged: the thatched crofts (albeit, all with chimneys), the variety of animals, the drink (presumably illicitly-distilled whisky), and the assembly of the various generations, but it all feels a little clean and cosy compared to what must have been the harsh reality. At least in my 1859 engraving, the feet of the boy in the foreground are bare; in the original painting, which is in the Victoria and Albert Museum, he appears to be wearing socks and shoes.

Still, if one can't see Landseer as the definitive artist of life in the Highlands as it was known in early Victorian times, one can at least enjoy his superb gifts for portraying all the animals found in the northern regions, from stags, to dogs, to chickens.

"The Highland Drover's Departure for the South." A hand-coloured re-strike of an 1859 engraving after Landseer, published by Drooster, Allen & Co.,

Three more images after Landseer, one of which may even be an original sketch by the artist himself.

"The Deerstalker's Return", an original watercolour after Sir Edwin Landseer. The original was painted in 1827, when Landseer was 25 years old.
An original sepia sketch, attributed on the back to Landseer. It is certainly by a very assured hand.

An original sepia painting by Ellen Woodward dated 24th February 1890 as part of Class IV work (the institution unknown). It is a copy of a Landseer engraving, Highland Music, here illustrating a quote from Hamlet, "More Beasts", which was the subject set. Justifiably, Ellen's work receives high marks, with a comment "a very good copy."

Deer Stalkers Returning. Copy by an unknown hand of a painting by Landseer. The image was much reproduced during the 19th century, and it was engraved by Henry Thomas Ryall.

An original sketch of a coaching scene. It has been carefully backed onto tissue, and has clearly been made by a professional hand. The skill in the portrayal of the animals depicted in the scene suggests Landseer himself.