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Tom Scott 'Border Reivers in a river valley'

5th July 2022.

Born in 1859, Tom Scott was renowned for his watercolours of the Scottish Borderlands where he lived for most of his life. Known for his mountainous landscapes, unique architecture and depictions of cultural history, Scott grew up in Selkirk and spent most of his life in painting his homeland. His work was acclaimed during his lifetime, and he exhibited over 160 works at the Royal Scottish Academy over 50 years.

This landscape depicts a dynamic scene showing a gang of Border Reivers returning home from a raid laden with cattle and loot. The atmospheric painting is afforded extra drama with the misty horizon, smoke hanging in the air and the encroaching hills of the valley. A sense of depth and drama is created by the ambiguity between figures and landscape as they head home across the river. The large canvas is a quintessential twentieth century Scottish painting. Scott clearly draws on the artistic inheritance of both Edwin Landseer and David Wilkie. Two artists who changed the course of Scottish art during the nineteenth century. 

The Border Reivers can be seen as a mafia like organisation that raided the Anglo-Scottish border between late 15th century and early 17th century. Known for their brutality, the Reivers lived and worked in family groups and made their money by stealing livestock and goods as well as extortion and blackmail. Their footprint is unavoidable in the Borderlands as their fortified Pele towers are still visible and their tales of derring-do can still be heard in pubs and village halls from Smailholm to Gilnockie.


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By Tryphaena Smith, Intern

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