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Telephone: 0131 226 6932 or 0845 388 5879
46 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3NH, Scotland

Biography and current catalogue for

Samuel Dukinfield Swarbreck (fl. 1830-1865) 

Samual Dukinfield Swarbreck helped mould the Victorian perception of Scotland by depicting Scottish Scenery. Originally from London, he reached fame through his depiction of stereotypical Scottish scenes which he published in 1839, containing a folio set of 26 lithographs under the title Sketches in Scotland, drawn on stone from nature. These well-known prints showed typical Scots including Highlanders in kilts, Newhaven fishwives in voluminous skirts, and portly gentlemen in top hats and chequered trousers. With this work he contributed to the Victorian romantic perception of Scotland; a country of stags, moors, mountains and kilts.

It can be argued that the perception of Scotland within the nineteenth century was a false consciousness, promoted for, or by the Anglo-Scottish market. This English-led, elite view of the landscape prevailed among the fashionable upper-classes who were familiar with the theories of the Picturesque and Sublime. These early tourists considered themselves to be connoisseurs of the landscape; but this sense of exclusivity did not last for long, and their extravagantly Romantic interpretation was embellished by Sir Walter Scott and came to dominate conceptions of Scotland within and beyond its borders.

Scotland became a major tourist attraction in the nineteenth century, specifically because of this particular image; one that developed from Scotland's history and from the cultural atmosphere of the time. While the popularity of Scotland among tourists can be seen as English-led demand for consuming Romantic Scotland, the romanticised image was certainly established within Scotland, and this vision is validated I by the domestic popularity of pictorial images of the landscape, history and cultural traditions of the country. The Romantic vision of Scotland was mainly portrayed through the medium of art, and among other through the work by Swarbreck.(1)

He was also an accomplished painter, exhibiting eight times at the Royal Academy. His most famous work ‘The bedroom of Mary, Queen of Scots, Holyrood Palace: showing the anteroom where Rizzio was dragged and murdered, and the secret staircase by which the conspirators entered’ was exhibited in 1856.

His work is represented in institutions such as the City of Edinburgh Collection, Culzean Castle and Manchester Art Gallery, but can be found in many Scottish country and town houses and is still very popular to this day.

(1) Forsyth, Emma Scott (2001) The romantic image: the culture, heritage and iconography of Scotland in the nineteenth century. PhD thesis.