Enfilade

Exhibition | Blazing with Crimson: Tartan Portraits

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on February 24, 2012

From the National Galleries of Scotland:

Blazing with Crimson: Tartan Portraits
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, 1 December 2011 — 31 December 2013

Highland dress and tartan fabric are universally recognised signs of Scotland and Scottish identity. This display explores what these distinctive garments and this highly recognisable textile meant to six different people who were painted between 1680 and 1780.

At first associated specifically with the Gaelic north and west of the nation, in particular with the flowering there of an elite warrior culture, the ‘Highland habit’ was subsequently used to convey various and sometimes conflicting messages. Highland dress was adopted by the Hanoverian army as it struggled to impose authority within Scotland, and the kilted soldier soon became a powerful symbol of the wider British Empire. In the nineteenth century British kings and queens led an obsession with Highland costume. Commerce combined with nostalgic scholarship to create a proliferation of different tartans linked to specific clans.

What most of our images have in common is a sense that the sitters, even when far from home, enjoyed the opportunities for display afforded by their dress. The artists appear to have been equally entranced by the visual appeal of bright colour and bold pattern, ample drapery and picturesque accessories.

The exhibition site includes a section on How to Wear a Great Kilt!