John Clerk of Eldin - Crichton Castle from the North West - 1773
Etching - image 8.1 x 9.9 cm - trimmed to platemark on right side
Unframed - Price: £150
JOHN CLERK OF ELDIN was a self taught etcher who, he says, was persuaded to take up the art “….after long and frequent importunitys of virtuosi friends….”. Clerk was born in Penicuik in 1728 and lived his life in the Edinburgh area. His friends and acquaintances were the leading figures of the Edinburgh Enlightenment. His closest friend was Robert Adam, the noted architect, whose sister Clerk married in 1753. He died at his home, Eldin House, in 1812.
Clerk travelled throughout the UK, always with a sketchbook to hand. From one perspective his 104 landscape etchings, produced within 1770 and 1778 (there is no evidence of printmaking beyond this period), are topographical in that they are views of castles, towns and other historical buildings. This does not, however, take into account the expressive nature of his scenes which are inspired by the European artists - Claude Lorrain, Anthonie Waterloo, Herman van Swanevelt, Renier Nooms (known as Zeeman) and Franz Edmund Weirotter - whose etchings he studied in teaching himself how to make prints. Clerk’s etchings are far more visually interesting than the regular expressionless engravings that constitute the bulk of 18th century topographical printmaking.
At a time when Scotland was beginning to discover itself and was becoming a tourist destination for early travellers, John Clerk of Eldin’s etchings are the first prints that attempt to capture the character of the Scottish landscape. In this he was a forerunner for much later Scottish artists such as Sir D.Y.Cameron.
Clerk of Eldin's prints are now rare and hard to come by.