• Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Review: Monarchs of the Glen: From Whisky to Wes Anderson at Doveot studios  

ByMili Greener

Nov 28, 2023
Photo of a hand woven tapestry of 'The Monarchs of the Glen', which was originally an iconic painting of a stag

To commemorate 150 years since the death of Sir Edwin Landseer, Dovecot Studios is currently exhibiting Monarchs of the Glen: From Whisky to Wes Anderson. Curated by Christopher Baker, he invites you to learn the deep history of Landseer’s oil painting, Monarchs of the Glen, and its widespread influence on marketing, film and becoming a representative of Scotland.  

The exhibition stretches across the balcony overlooking Dovecot’s tapestry studio, which used to be the Infirmary St Baths. It is very immersive upon entering the balcony. With the weaving process beneath, all visitors instinctively left the artwork they were viewing to peer over the balcony in curiosity.   

The Monarch of the Glen was painted in 1851. Landseer’s majestic painting of a stag, regarded as a ‘royal stag’ because of its twelve horns, has had an expansive influence. Interestingly, the original intention for Landseer’s painting was for a commission as a series of three for the House of Lords in the New Palace of Westminster. However, they were never used, so Monarch of the Glen was returned to Landseer. The background demonstrates the influence of Romanticism through the motion-filled colours. The clouds’ movement contrasts against the stag’s stationary nature as it appears to be in authority, conducting everything.  

On display are a plethora of replicas based on the original, with varying degrees of similarity. In Wes Anderson’s 2012 film, Moonrise Kingdom the original painting is placed in Scout Master Randy Ward’s tent. However, other reproductions, such as McVitie’s advertising, do not use the original oil painting, but the stag is recognisable through its orientation and the 12 horns.  

A notable replica was Peter Saville’s, based on Sir Peter Blake’s reproduction of the original. Saville used technology and added a filter to Blake’s artwork to create a hand-woven tapestry 2017 entitled After, After, After Monarch of the Glen. Baker’s curation decision to place Dovecote’s tapestry replica of the original oil painting directly opposite each other was very powerful and effective. Having the weaving studio below made me appreciate and understand the rigorous process.   

While some may view this artwork as patriotic and a celebration of Scotland, many have rejected it due to the ongoing conflict of Scottish Nationalism. Landseer was an English painter, so for his artwork to be thought of as representing Scotland, it may be regarded as a threat to Scottish national identity. As this debate was referenced at the end of the exhibition, it effectively makes one consider whether the vast influence of Monarchs of the Glen is justified beyond the walls of Dovecot studios.  

You may enter questioning the relationship between whisky and Wes Anderson, yet you are sure to leave with expansive knowledge and awareness of the presence of Monarch of the Glen. This exhibition, open until 4th March 2024, perfectly balances education and immersion in practical art.   

You can see ‘Monarchs of the Glen: From Whisky to Wes Anderson’ at Dovecot studios until 4th March 2024 

Image courtesy of Mili Greener.