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Scottish Clan Tartans

Scottish Clans: Tartan

McIan's Highlanders

Robert Ronald McIan. From The Clans of The Scottish Highlands. London: Ackermann and Co., 1845. Folio; ca. 12 x 8. Lithographs. Original hand-colour.

A series of beautiful hand-colored prints of the highland clans from Scotland, showing the clan tartans. Queen Victoria was the first of the English monarchs to become interested in her Scottish heritage. In response to this royal interest, R. R. McIan and James Logan made extensive research into the clans of the Scottish highlands, and then produced their sumptuous volumes.

This was the first comprehensive illustrated work on the Scottish clans, presenting a descriptive history of each clan and a picture of its clan plaid. Thus, these images represent a primary source for subsequent work on the clans and their tartans. These are fascinating and colorful pieces of Scottish history.

R R McIan was born in Scotland 1803. His initial passion was for acting and in his late teens moved to London to join the Covent Garden Theatre. His extrovert character fitted in well with the stage and London life in the 1830s and it was during this period that he explored and developed his second passion - painting.

His first work to be submitted to the Royal Academy of Painting in London was in 1835 and was followed by a series of paintings depicting events and scenes of drama and conflict from Scotland's history - The Battle of Culloden, A Highland Feud and many others.

In the early 1840s, encouraged by the favourable reception of his work, he left the stage to concentrate on painting. A fortuitous meeting with James Logan resulted in a collaboration - The Clans of the Scottish Highlands - Logan writing the text and McIan the illustrations.

"The Costumes of the Clans of Scotland" - the book's working title - was issued to commemorate the centenary of the 1745 uprising and was available on subscription only. It was dedicated to Queen Victoria, with her consent, and reflected the great interest in all things Scottish prevalent in London and the USA at the time.
It is reputed that the models McIan used were actor friends seconded for the purpose. There has been much debate as to the accuracy of McIan's work - in terms of dress, the tartan patterns, etc, and it is generally accepted that a degree of artistic licence was exercised by McIan in his interpretations. There is little doubt that his depictions reflected the then popular romanticised view of Scotland.

McIan and Logan continued to collaborate producing a further volume, THE HIGHLANDERS AT HOME in 1848. McIan was happily married to Fanny, an accomplished artist in her own right and continued to paint until his death in 1856, the result of a wasting disease.
He leaves as a legacy some of the most enduring images of Scotland ever produced

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