This is an album of sketches by James Skene of Rubislaw (1775-1864), comprising approximately 420 sketches. A talented amateur artist, James Skene of Rubislaw was a close friend of Sir Walter Scott who accompanied him on riding excursions to localities that Scott planned to feature in his novels and poems. There, at Scott’s suggestion, Skene made sketches of landscapes and buildings that Scott then used as an inspiration and aide-memoire for his own work. Many of the sketches in this album can be linked to trips that Scott and Skene are known to have made together. Some later sketches date from excursions that Skene took alone at Scott’s request, as Scott himself grew ever busier and, with declining health, less physically mobile. The album also includes sketches that were clearly used as source material for published Scott illustrations by professional artists. It seems likely, then, that Skene was also employed by Scott’s publishers to make preparatory sketches of scenes that would make effective illustrations to Scott’s work.
Besides casting light on Skene’s relations with Scott, with Scott’s publishers, and with professional illustrators, the sketches also provide an invaluable insight into Skene’s own life and activities. A collectable artist in his own right, Skene was a prominent member of Scottish literary and antiquarian circles, with extensive cultural and scientific interests. Not all the sketches are connected to his artistic collaboration with Scott. Some of the earlier pieces date from his days as a student in Germany, while sketches post-dating Scott’s death suggest a lively and informed interest in archaeology and geology.