Stirling Castle Annan, James Craig  (Scottish, 1864-1946)

The great American photographer, Alfred Stieglitz described J. Craig Annan as a true artist, and a decidedly poetic one at that. His photogravure of Stirling Castle was executed in this spirit. The Glasgow photographer was proud of his Scottishness and some have read a nationalist statement into this picture. Although the castle looks proud and untouchable up on the crag, it overlooks a farmyard. In the farmyard a white horse moves tentatively into the shadows – a transient moment which instantaneously makes this an informal and accessible image imbued with mood.

This work is a superb example of Annan’s skill in photogravure. Its range of tones from silver to velvet takes full advantage of the photogravure syntax. Annan’s extensive handwork dissolves invisibly into the melancholic scene. Annan reworked the clouds at least three times while making the plate.

Annan had strong views about explaining art: that it should strike a sympathetic chord and give pleasure… but if it does not, no amount of argument will enable him to realize and enjoy the artistic intention of the producer. Judging from this photogravure, it is clear that he would go to great lengths to achieve this end.

This large print is an earlier stage (possibly) variant of the print held in The National Galleries of Scotland.

Reproduced / Exhibited

Buchanan, William, and J C. Annan. The Art of the Photographer: J. Craig Annan, 1864-1946. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 1992. (cover)

Doty, Robert M. Photo-secession: Photography As a Fine Art. N.Y: Eastman, 1960. plate XXVII.

Haworth-Booth, Mark. The Golden Age of British Photography, 1839-1900: Photographs from the Victoria and Albert Museum, London [and Others]. New York: Aperture, 1984 p. 175

Harker, Margaret F. The Linked Ring: The Secession Movement in Photography in Britain, 1892-1910. London: Heinemann, 1979. pl 9.5 (alt)

Kruse, Margret. Kunstphotographie Um 1900: D. Sammlung Ernst Juhl; Hamburg: Museum für Kunst u. Gewerbe, 1989 pl. 22

Jeffrey, Ian. Photography: A Concise History. London: Thames and Hudson, 1981. no. 53.

Sandler, Martin W. Photography: An Illustrated History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002. p. 45

Simpson, Roddy. The Photography of Victorian Scotland. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013.p. 189

Weaver, Mike. The Photographic Art: Pictorial Traditions in Britain and America. Edinburgh, 1986. no. 31

National Galleries of Scotland accession number: PGP 45.15


Buchanan, William. J. Craig Annan: Selected Texts and Bibliography. Oxford: Clio Press, 1994. fig. 12

D.Y. Cameron, An Artist’s Notes on Mr. J. Craig Annan’s Pictures p. 96