The Monarch of the Glen Edwin Henry Landseer Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Sir Edwin Henry Landseer completed The Monarch of the Glen in 1851, specifically for the House of Lords. However, there was a controversy over the cost of the art that was commissioned by the same legislature.

The image ended up being sold to a collector. This painting had remained in the private hands over the years up to 2017 when the National Galleries of Scotland acquired it. Over the years, the painting had changed hands and travelled around Britain. The Monarch of the Glen is one of the most iconic paintings that captures the beautiful wilds and animals of Scotland and remains one of the most recognisable British paint of the late 19th century. Part of the fame came from the painter, who had gained celebrity status for his proficiency in painting animals. Before painting the dear, he had other famous paintings such as Portrait of Mr Van Amburgh, As he Appeared with his Animals at the London and Deer in a Landscape.

The Exhibition of the Painting

The Monarch was first exhibited in the Royal Academy of Arts that is housed in the National Gallery. In this gallery, he also commissioned some bronze lions at the base of Nelson's Column. These lions dominate Trafalgar Square at the entrance of the gallery. Pundits call the gallery a perfect depiction of Britishness, which embodies all the characteristics of Scottish and British culture. The painting is available for viewing by the public at the gallery.

Inspiration for the Image

Landseer, although born in London in 1802, travelled widely across Scotland since he was 22 years of age. During his numerous visits, the virgin beauty of the Scottish landscape fascinated him. He grew an affinity with Sir Walter Scott and the locals across Scotland. Therefore, the Monarch of the Glen was one of Landseer's many paintings of the vast wildernesses that he saw during his travels.

He was particularly interested in the stags and deers, which he painted in large numbers after the 1830s. In most cases, he showcased them as trophies or being at the mercies of the hunters who ran wild with dogs across the highlands. However, for the Monarch, the stag appears to be a master of its surroundings and does not look threatened by human beings. This is partly the reason the painting garnered a lot of interest over a hundred years after it was created.

The Painting

In the painting, Sir Henry shows a stag standing with his nostrils pointed to the sky, enjoying the beauty and the fresh air around him. He took to me to define the stag's appearance straight to its finer details. For example, viewers notice the moisture from the warm air around his nostrils. It also has its eyelashes painted to precision. This stag was defined as a royal stag, thanks to the twelve points on that show on his antlers. He appears well-fed and healthy, a sign of plenty in the wilderness.

The other details that can be picked from the main subject are the erect ears. The stag was probably alert as it may have heard some movement or dogs barking from a distance and wanted to keep safe. Besides, the painter has gone to more in-depth details to paint the fleece just below the neck. Admirers cannot help notice the general smoothness of the outer court, the rounder under-belly and its athletic legs.

Behind the stag is a hazy atmosphere, probably since it was morning, and the mist was slowly evaporating in the morning sun. Mountain ranges can be seen from a distance with some grass on the foreground. This kind of landscape was common during the summer season in Scotland and it plays well with the general tone of the image. The skies above the stag are also grey, an indication that there might have been rains during the summer period.

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer used the Romanticism style to create the image. This style allowed him to play with both his imagination and other aspects such as lighting, hues and elements of nature. The result was a natural masterpiece that did not follow any rule in the artist's book. This creativity is also seen in the intricate details put by the same painter in other pieces of his art.

Possible Meanings from the Image

The Monarch of the Glen is a kind of cinematic composition that transformed Scotland into a blockbuster landscape. During the creation of the image, Scotland was struggling under the hand of the London rule and felt that they should have some freedom. Like a deer, they had all the natural beauty and plenty around them. However,they were always under the threat of extermination and abuse from the rest of Britain. By the stag standing majestically in a field, the image showed that they were still strong, despite their fears and worries and could overcome.

This line of thought can in later as most people thought Landseer cared more of the royals and nobles than he cared of the poor across the country. This was a departure from the norm where he showcased stags at the mercy of hunters and the rich. The sense of nationality in this painting led the famous 2017 tour of Scotland, where the public had a chance to interact with the art and learn something about their national heritage.

People Inspired by the Painting

This image continues to inspire various artists down the years. It has also made its way into corporate branding and logos. Some of the other artists that pursued the idea of a magnificent wilderness are Charles Towne (1763-1840), who painted the Monarch of Pasture Land, and John Linnell (1792-1882), who drew the Fallen Monarch of the Forest. The first image was the depiction of a large bull and other farm animals at rest, probably after grazing for some time.

The second image was a depiction of a large tree felled by loggers. Peter Saville worked with Dovecot Studio Edinburg to create a re-appropriation Peter Blake's Monarch of the Glen. The work was created a large-scale tapestry of the work. A good number of brands have the image of the stag as part of their branding efforts. Most popular companies include the Nestle Waters North America and Hartford Financial Services Group. In the UK, the image is used in the branding of Baxter's Royal Game soup.

The Monarch of the Glen Cropped

The Monarch of the Glen in Detail Edwin Henry Landseer