Painting by celebrated artist that became classic Aberdeenshire railway poster unearthed in Edinburgh house

Artwork discovered in private collection up for auction

A painting of Braemar Castle by the celebrated Dundee artist James McIntosh Patrick which became a classic railway poster promoting train travel to Royal Deeside has been unearthed in a rare find in an Edinburgh house.

Lyon & Turnbull senior specialist Alice Strang with James McIntosh's 1937 painting of Braemar Castle. (Photo by Lyon & Turnbull/Stewart Attwood)Lyon & Turnbull senior specialist Alice Strang with James McIntosh's 1937 painting of Braemar Castle. (Photo by Lyon & Turnbull/Stewart Attwood)
Lyon & Turnbull senior specialist Alice Strang with James McIntosh's 1937 painting of Braemar Castle. (Photo by Lyon & Turnbull/Stewart Attwood) | Stewart Attwood

The 1937 picture was used as part of the “It’s Quicker by Rail” campaign jointly run by the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) and London Midland and Scottish Railway, which operated on the east and west coast main lines respectively.

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McIntosh Patrick’s other railway posters included of Dunfermline, St Andrews and Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven. The painting was found in the house of an art collector who had died, wrapped unframed in brown paper and propped against a table in the hall.

It will be on show at Lyon & Turnbull in Edinburgh from Friday May 31 and is expected to sell for £2,000-3,000 at auction on Thursday June 6.

Alice Strang, the firm’s senior specialist in modern and contemporary art, said: “It was every auction house specialist’s dream. We realised we had discovered the original painting for this wonderful poster which is celebrating one of most beautiful spots in Scotland.

“That was exciting because McIntosh Patrick is one of Scotland’s most important 20th century artists. It’s totally evocative of that wonderful inter-war era of exploring Britain by train - glory days of railway journeying.

“The railway posters tapped into a heartwarming feeling of nostalgia, and appeal to us even now.”

The collector’s daughter said: “McIntosh Patrick was my father’s favourite artist. He was also brought up in Dundee and struck up a correspondence with the painter, who came to visit him about 35 years ago.

“McIntosh Patrick said he did not know where his paintings ended up and was delighted to see one of his works for the first time for some 50 years. In return, he invited my parents to his house for tea.” The artist died in 1998, aged 91.

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Andrew McLean, assistant director and head curator of the National Railway Museum, which owns the poster, said: “The ‘Quicker by Rail’ campaign was especially effective and speaks to the carefully cultivated image of the big railway companies at that time.

“It is redolent of what we now often think of as the golden age of rail, although the 1930s reality was perhaps somewhat different - hence the LNER being nicknamed the Late and Never Early Railway).”

The railway poster based on James McIntosh Patrick’s 1937 painting of Braemar Castle. (Photo by SSPL/National Railway Museum)The railway poster based on James McIntosh Patrick’s 1937 painting of Braemar Castle. (Photo by SSPL/National Railway Museum)
The railway poster based on James McIntosh Patrick’s 1937 painting of Braemar Castle. (Photo by SSPL/National Railway Museum) | NRM Pictorial Collection / Science Museum Group

Doreen Wood, vice chair of Braemar Community Limited, which manages Braemar Castle, said it was ironic the building had been used to promote train travel because Queen Victoria had vetoed the railway passing Balmoral to reach Braemar and it terminated at Ballater, 17 miles to the east.

Lyon & Turnbull senior specialist Alice Strang with James McIntosh's 1937 painting of Braemar Castle. (Photo by Lyon & Turnbull/Stewart Attwood)Lyon & Turnbull senior specialist Alice Strang with James McIntosh's 1937 painting of Braemar Castle. (Photo by Lyon & Turnbull/Stewart Attwood)
Lyon & Turnbull senior specialist Alice Strang with James McIntosh's 1937 painting of Braemar Castle. (Photo by Lyon & Turnbull/Stewart Attwood) | Stewart Attwood

The castle reopened this month after a £1.6 million refurbishment. Anna Robertson, fine and applied art manager at The McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery and Museum, said: “McIntosh Patrick’s watercolours come up regularly in salerooms. Oil paintings are rarer, and to find an original oil painting for one of his railway posters rarer still.”

Emily Walsh, managing director of The Fine Art Society in Edinburgh, said: “It is unusual to see this early poster design come on the market.”

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