“Country Scene,” Attributed to J.A. Houston - image 1 of 12

John Adam P. Houston (1812-1884) was an accomplished Scottish painter of historical and landscape scenes in both oil and watercolor. Christopher Wood, author the “Dictionary of Victorian Artists,” slightly chides the artist for being more romantic than accurate in some of his paintings. However, in the long run I think we can be grateful that Houston chose to have more of the former in his depictions than maintaining accuracy.

The artist was first trained in Edinburgh and then traveled to Paris and Germany to continue his studies, living for a time in Italy. By his mid-forties he settled down in London for the rest of his life, exhibiting works at the principal London galleries, as well as the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA). Houston (pronounced by the Scottish as “hoo-sten”), eventually became a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, and the RSA. Works by the artist can be found in the National Gallery of Scotland, the Museums of Glasgow and Edinburgh, and other museums in Britain. He is of course listed in all the major reference books on British artists as well as in Benezit’s “Dictionnaire des Peintres…”

In this wonderful example of the artist’s work, we are privileged to view a quintessential scene of the quiet country cottage life. It is finely painted with much attention to detail in the buildings, the figure and the nearby cows. The old trees surrounding the cottage let us know that the buildings have been in the scene for a long time. In the background is another farm and a few animals. However, the blue sky and white and grey billowing clouds are also integral to this romantic landscape. The principal colors harmonize perfectly with one another, adding a delightful element to the painting.

This piece is not signed, but there are several old identification labels on the back. One is from the Houston Gallery which identifies the artist as J.A. Houston (1812-1884) and the title of the painting as “Country Scene,” as well as the size of the painting itself as 11 by 10 inches and the gallery’s stock number. Another, earlier label has darkened and is difficult to read. However, I can make out the words “Royal Scottish Academy of Manufacture…” and “…? to the Queen.” This label may have been from the framer and/or manufacturer of the art board.

I just discovered that a small but impressive-looking museum, The Johnson Collection, has an unusual Houston painting in its collection that can be seen on its website. The Spartanburg, South Carolina museum, private but open to the public, notes that “(T)hough he is not known to have visited the United States, John Adam Houston made a seminal contribution to the visual history of the nation, and particularly the South, through this work.” Entitled “The Fugitive Slave,” it depicts a runaway slave’s yearning for freedom. Although the artist is known for painting historical scenes, this dramatic work was a departure from his usual style. The Johnson Collection found that the painting was first exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1853.

This painting is housed in its original Victorian wood and gesso, swept and pierced frame with a large beaded edging. The embossed flowers and shells in the corners add their own decorative value to the overall gesso work.

This is an exceptionally well-executed and well-designed traditional painting; the kind that probably would have hung in a well-heeled manor house. Houston painted us a memorable and pretty scene that is easy to live with.

The painting is in excellent condition. It appears to have been cleaned within the past 20 years. There is a slight amount of crazing due to the thick nature of the paint. The frame is in excellent condition as well.

Including the frame, the painting measures 15-1/2 inches wide by 14 inches.


Perry-Joyce Fine Arts

“Country Scene,” Attributed to J.A. Houston

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