Completed North West England: Artists and Subjects 36 Can you identify this location in the Lake District?

Topic: Subject or sitter

Is this a view of Coniston Water from close to its south-east end, the mountain being The Old Man of Coniston?

The most dramatic view of the mountain is by James Hamilton Hay in the Williamson Art Gallery:

The collection comments that it has not been able to positively identify the location. There are other possibilities, such as Grasmoor from the north.

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Jade Audrey King,

A painting description has now been added to this record:

'This scene could possibly depict Grasmoor in the Lake District, viewed from the north. Buchanan appears to have romanticised his landscapes for picturesque effect, rather than being faithful to the actual topography, making exact locations difficult to verify.'

This amend will appear on Art UK in due course.

Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Andrew Chamberlain,

Lake District mountains tend to be connected by ridges, I cannot place this scene in the Lake District. Scotland might be more appropriate, and there are similar mountain skylines around Loch Katrine, where Buchanan also painted.

Grasmoor from the north, say near Loweswater, certainly seems plausible to me, see third image on, bottom right on and 'Grasmoor, north end of Crummock Water and Mellbreak' on

Grasmoor is quite smooth and we would have to take onto account the artist roughening the profile for picturesque effect, typical of the earlier 19th c.

Just to note that opening the GAC collection link on this canvas rather unexpectedly takes one or me at least) to a Derwentwater view by Sir George Beaumont: a wire seems to be crossed...

Martin Hopkinson,

I think that Grassmoor from the north does seem more likely than a Coniston Water view, judging by the photographs referred to above. Buchanan's other Lake District paintings would reward investigation too as to which lakes and mountains he depicted.

Malcolm Fowles,

It is hard to tell from Art UK whether Buchanan was generally faithful to the terrain, or at least to his mountain subjects, given the distinct stylistic difference between foreground and mountain here. Was he?

If he was not, this is a fools errand. We are still only discussing the names mentioned in the topic introduction! One can construct numerous such views from varied angles in the Lake District.

Tim Williams,

The only works of the Lake district Buchanan has apparently produced are the three in the Government Art Collection.

He (apart from a handful of Windsor/London scenes) depicted Scottish Lochs, which makes me believe the three works in the GAC are surely Scotland? I think the Lakes is a red herring.

Malcolm Fowles,

I have examined one of Buchanan's views with which I am familiar. Here is his Derwentwater:

Because of the open space at the left, this can only be looking N from the E bank. The high mountains would be Skiddaw and Skiddaw Little Man, with Ullock Pike to the left. The viewpoint would be either near Barrow Bay (OS grid NY2620) or near Great Bay (NY2619). I have spent many a holiday here, based at Grange, to the south.

From either point, the foreground height is an invention, possibly taken from one of the crags further back from the lake. The Skiddaws are not seen like this - certainly from here and possibly from anywhere - and a string of minor fells below Ullock Pike are omitted.

From this evidence, Buchanan is not faithful even to the mountains. I have no faith in being able to match any of his views to a particular location. Sorry to disappoint. Bring back James Peel! :-)

Patty Macsisak,

Grange Fell could have been the inspiration for this painting. "The climb from Grange goes through the picturesque deciduous woodland at the foot of the fell and skirts round Greatend Crag before reaching King's How and is ranked as one of the loveliest short walks in the Lake District. "

It's obvious that the painter was at a lower elevation, but these photos give a good idea of the river before it flows into Derwentwater. Although the photos below do not include Maiden Moor, it is to the North East.

Malcolm Fowles,

I know the river before it flows into Derwentwater, way up to Rosthwaite, and the fells either side of it. I have walked it many times. It is wild in flood. This is just lapping over banks.

We have demonstrable proof (from the picture titled "Derwentwater") that a subject recognition approach is not appropriate to Buchanan. If someone other than the artist has titled the pictures, they may not even be of the Lake District, just labelled as such by a person who finds the terrain vaguely familiar.

I propose we park this, or look for a different kind of evidence.

Malcolm Fowles,

Here's a clue from the collection itself.

Look at the provenance. Then look at views of that river, and figure out which is more likely.

Next, depending how you look at it, say "ha ha ha ha" or "what a waste of time". Here are some theories:

1. The painting hangs in the Foreign Office at Steyning, where they got fed up of explaining the geography to foreigners who had only heard of the Lake District.

2. Ditto, but to the Foreign Secretary.

3. The FO needs it to be English so they can hang onto it after Scottish independence.

Any more?

Malcolm Fowles,

The peaks are two of the three peaks of Eildon Hill (a.k.a the Trimontium or the Eildons, OS grid NT548322).

The painting should revert to its former title, The Winding of the Tweed, bestowed on the area after a poem by Sir Walter Scott:

... Adown the sunny Eildon Hill,
And the sweet winding Tweed ...

Amanda Draper,

As Group Leader for the North West I should add my comment here. I do side with Malcolm in the belief that we are not likely to reach a definitive solution about location (sorry Martin). Sometimes it is possible to see Lakeland topography and identify specific peaks, but with more generic views, especially when the artist is known to use artistic licence, it can be impossible. This is, I suppose, why there are so many paintings just called 'Lakeland Scene' in public collections.

We can certainly keep the discussion open for a while longer for anybody with expert knowledge of the Lake District to come foreward if the group prefers.

Apologies if a random few words appeared in a previous post. My typing finger slipped ....

Amanda Draper,

Malcolm, you must have been submitting your comment as I was typing. Can you find any images to back up your recommendation for location for us to compare?

Malcolm Fowles,

It is easier if you Google "Eildon Hill", or look in at grid reference NT5432. In the latter, you can also browse to pictures of that grid square taken from other squares.

However, my earlier comments on Buchanan's faithfulness to the terrain still apply. Just as with the Skiddaws in "Derwentwater", he has raised and pointed the Eildons, and possibly moved them into a new line of sight. He is untrustworthy. But it is quite clear that the picture's previous title is correct.

Malcolm Fowles,

In case you wonder why it is clear - why would anyone bother to title a painting" The Winding of the Tweed" if it did not represent somewhere near Scott's home at Abbotsford, where he wrote the verse?

Martin Hopkinson,

One should certainly recommend returning to the original title

Amanda Draper,

This is looking like a good conclusion to the discussion. Unless there is anything else Martin and Malcolm would like to add, I'll make the recommendation back to the collection.

Malcolm Fowles,

If I were the collection I'd also add a short note on the reason for the title, the identity of the peak(s) and a caution about it not being an entirely faithful view.

I probably wouldn't add theory number 4: Civil Service cock-up. :-)

Malcolm Fowles,

Shouldn't we play safe first? We don't know who changed the title and more importantly why.

Was the change to the Lake District title actually due to an Art UK cock-up, associated with the incorrect link corrected by Edward?

Is it possible to find auction history? I'd like to know what provenance was given in the "Bonhams, London, 'Important English and Continental Paintings' sale, on 27 June 1974 (Lot 62; with GAC 11686)". And before, if possible.

Osmund Bullock,

I agree that the original title when it went through Bonhams in June 1974 is more likely to be right. But though it's all jolly good fun mocking the FO/Civil Service, I'd have thought it's just as likely that it was the dealer (Appleby Bros) who changed the title. Note that it is one of a group of six paintings all bought (in pairs) by Appleby at the sale, and all sold on to the then DoE (now part of DEFRA) five months later.

Five of the six certainly had Scottish titles when they were at auction (the other is not specified), and even two with generic titles that couldn't possibly have been problematic for those ignorant foreigners were at some point altered to Lake District ones - who would need an explanation for "A Scottish Loch Scene" or "Scottish landscape"? "Stirling Castle" survived unchanged - presumably hard to argue with - though a view described as showing the River Tay in the distance became instead one with the Clyde, rightly or wrongly. It might be worth the GAC looking at all of these afresh.

Now it's possible that an anglocentric tendency in the FO was to blame, or indeed that a junior curator at the GAC got a bit carried away. But there are a lot more C19th Scottish views in the marketplace than Lake District ones, which makes the latter more valuable (especially when specific). And in the 1970s many dealers routinely changed titles of paintings to ones they thought would sell better - before the internet there was much less chance you'd be caught out.

It would be wise to find out what titles the DoE bought them under before making assumptions.

Malcolm Fowles,

If I understand you correctly, only the GAC's later diligence would have uncovered the earlier title at auction. The Lake District title could have come from Appleby Bros, the DoE, or even the FO, but the first of these has obvious means, motive and opportunity.

In that case, I'm happy not to probe further. The old title fits better.

While searching, I did find some Buchanan auction records. A 16x24 inch "View of Loch Long" sold in 2014 for £162. Best of all, a decidedly Scottish "River scene with Chinese junks" rather put our own mistitle to shame!

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, Malcolm, I posted my last comment without realizing that while I was writing it, you had posted again cautioning us (or yourself!) to "play safe first", with which I agree. And yes, that is the gist of what I'm saying - though since the GAC (or the old DoE) has/had clearly seen the catalogue, one might ask why they would have accepted the new titles even if they weren't responsible for them. The answer may be simply be that with over 10,000 works to curate, they have not been in a position to give the matter much time or thought.

If by "auction history" you mean what is available online, it varies from auctioneer to auctioneer. There is some Bonhams data going back to 2003 on their own website, but no further (and even the earlier stuff within that time-frame appears incomplete). In any case the online version never gives all the information that appears in the printed catalogue.

So to pursue it further you/we would need to access a copy of the original catalogue. It doesn't seem to be in the National Art Library catalogue (perhaps double-check), but you could see if Bonhams themselves can help (though they won't be able to provide more provenance if it's not in the catalogue). It is also possible that the GAC has a scan/photocopy, since they quote from it - it's worth asking them, anyway, and perhaps at the same time they could see if their records show the titles the paintings bore when they were bought from the Applebys. I don't know how important it is in the wider scheme of things (though you could say that of most of our investigations); but since the error (if it is) could apply to three or four more paintings besides, maybe a little more probing wouldn't be a bad thing.

Patty Macsisak,

CORRECTION: Although the photos below do not include Maiden Moor, it is to the North West.

Amanda Draper,

Malcolm has shown that the previous recorded title of the painting, The Winding of the Tweed, was appropriate and the group is broadly agreed that it should revert back.

The Art UK team are requested to ask the Collection if they wish this discussion to be help open in case earlier provenance can be found for the painting to confirm its title and possibly identify when the change was made, or if they are satisfied with simply reverting back to The Winding of the Tweed.

Malcolm Fowles,

Having reflected on Osmund's hint to look at all the whole group of paintings, I now prefer caution. Of Buchanan's other "Lake District" works:

1. "Derwentwater" is not disputed. however, its two major fells are not aligned as actually seen from the lakeshore and are raised into peaks.
2. "Scene ... Langdale Pikes from Blea Tarn" is certainly what it says, as shows, though both the foreground and the fells are recomposed. The Pikes look more like the painting if you move right from the tarn, e.g. to the viewpoint atop Side Pike, which may be the little bump in front of the highest peak, Harrison Stickle. Its previous title "A Scottish Loch Scene ..." is palpably false, which unfortunately must cast doubt on "The Winding of the Tweed" too.
3. The other (i.e. not this) "Scene in the Lake District" will be a challenge to identify. However, the grey crags and boulders make it the most like Lake District scenery, so its previous title "Scottish Landscape" seems less likely.

A modus operandi emerges from all four paintings: misty, distant peaks are recomposed for greater "sublimity", and set behind a foreground of quite different style, also recomposed. The peaks may have been sketched from a different viewpoint.

Further, all previous names in the Bonham's auction are thrown into doubt, at least for Buchanan.

Amanda Draper,

In this instance I take the opposite stance from Malcolm and doubt that any of the Buchanan’s under discussion here are of the Lake District. As Tim mentioned earlier, the only Buchanan’s supposedly of this area are with GAC, which raises suspicions.

Looking at the on-line auction records for Buchanan: of 44 of his paintings sold since 1974, those recorded all went under Scottish or generic landscape titles except for three respectively said to depict Battersea, Windsor and Twickenham, one ‘Extensive Estuary View ... thought to be River Avon’ and our old friend ‘River Scene with Chinese Junks’ (prize to Heritage Auctions of Dallas for that one). Nothing labelled as being in the Lake District or North West England.

GAC’s own website records that they purchased seven Buchanan paintings from the Appleby Brothers in November 1974. Their records show that the paintings were previously auctioned at Bonhams and even give the titles they had at that point. These are the paintings with their GAC accession numbers and previous titles:

• 11685 - Derwentwater [no alternate title given]
• 11686 - Scene in the Lake District (probably the Langdale Pikes from Blea Tarn) [previously A Scottish Scene with Figures in a Boat]
• 11687 – Scene in the Lake District [previously Scottish Landscape]
• 11688 – Scene in the Lake District [previously The Winding of the Tweed]
• 11689 – Stirling Castle [no alternate title given]
• 11690 – View Towards the Clyde [previously A Scottish Landscape with Mill and Distant View of the Tay]
• 11691 – Woodlands House, Glasgow [no alternate title given]

[GAC have two additional Buchanan paintings obtained from a different source with generic ‘Landscape with a Lake’ titles - their acc nos 3175 & 3176]

The Bonhams sale is included on Blouin Art Sales Index where it lists the six ‘Scottish’ pictures. Four were sold in pairs, with Stirling Castle and Woodlands House sold individually. The focus of this discussion, 11688/‘The Winding of the Tweed’, was sold with that title. Oddly, the Derwentwater painting isn’t listed. This may be a Blouin error, or the painting may have come from the Appleby Bros but from a different source. Perhaps GAC would check their archive? Obviously, a check with the actual Bonhams catalogue would be the ideal...

My suggestion would be that GAC revert back to the Scottish titles where given and check their records about ‘Derwentwater’. Malcolm was persuasive in pinpointing the location of ‘The Winding of the Tweed’ in relation to the Eildons, taking into account Buchanan’s remodelling of the landscape for picturesque effect. However, if the group wish to pursue the discussion we should open it up to Scotland: Artists and Subjects. Ditto if they wish to pursue a separate discussion specifically about ‘Derwentwater’.

Government Art Collection,

This is complex, and the information we have – the Bonhams catalogue and the original consignment notes and invoices from Appleby’s - throw up more questions than answers. A colleague did some research into these a few years ago but was unable to get anywhere with the Applebys archives as it appears their yearbooks were not kept.

This particular painting is the only one of this group which has an inscription on the back – in this case on the stretcher. This says “No. 1 Derwent Water”. This partly explains the fact that in Appleby’s consignment note, four of the group are described as “set of four views at Derwentwater”. Unfortunately only one of these can be identified as showing Derwentwater with any degree of certainty. I identified the location of another – ”Scene in the Lake District, probably the Langdale Pikes from Blea Tarn” a few years ago, which I still think is probably correct.

I do not feel that reverting to the Bonhams title “Windings of the Tweed” is appropriate, both on topgraphical grounds (as a view of the Eildon Hills I don’t find it convincing), and also because the identification of this particular work with the painting of that title in the Bonhams catalogue is also uncertain, despite what it says in the provenance.

I suggest we park this discussion for now. If anyone has a more definite information on the location I would be happy to hear from them.

Amanda Draper,

That is very interesting. Thank you for taking time to do that research for us. We now know that the change from Scotland to Lakeland titles was first instigated by the Appleby Brothers with additional amendments by GAC. Although, of course, we don't know the titles prior to the Bonhams sale. It is clear that the curators at GAC have already done considerable research on these paintings over the years.

Does anybody in the group have any additional comments before we close this discusssion?

Amanda Draper,

Thanks to Martin for proposing the discussion about Buchanan’s painting and for all who contributed to it.

Taking into account the wishes of the Government Art Collection, it is recommended that GAC retains the current title of the painting, Scene in the Lake District, but add a note to their records to indicate that Grasmoor from the north was considered the most likely Lakeland vista during the discussion.

This painting was one of four purchased by GAC from the Appleby Brothers in 1974, all described at the time as views of Derwentwater. The paintings previously had Scottish titles when auctioned at a Bonhams sale earlier 1974, in line with many other recorded works by Buchanan. However, after considerable research, the assessment of GAC curators is that three of the paintings are not of Derwentwater but of other views of the Lake District. Buchanan appears to have romanticised his landscapes for picturesque effect, rather than being faithful to the actual topography, making exact locations difficult to verify.

Jade Audrey King,

Thanks. The collection have been contacted about this recommendation.