Before the Union of the Crowns in 1603, Scotland’s royal court and aristocracy had strong artistic links with Europe and commissioned work by the finest Flemish artists, for example. The removal of the court to London and the thorough success of the Protestant Reformation made the seventeenth century less artistically productive. In the eighteenth century, Scotland’s leading role in the Enlightenment and the newly rich merchant, industrialist and professional classes provided sophisticated patrons who enabled portrait, landscape, genre and history painting to flourish.
The wild Scottish landscape began to attract artists in the early nineteenth century and the work of Landseer and Horatio McCulloch came to epitomise the Victorian idealisation of Scottish romanticism. The darker side of rural poverty and the Highland Clearances was, however, not forgotten. Scotland produced pioneer collectors of advanced European painting, which was paralleled in the work of MacTaggart, the Glasgow Boys and, later, the Scottish Colourists. In the later twentieth century Edinburgh College of Art and Glasgow School of Art made, and continue to make, world-famous contributions to British art.