The Art of Stornoway Part 1 of A Few, Probably.

17 06 2016

It is generally accepted by geehonks who know fleek all that Stornoway had no tradition of the fine arts of painting and sculpture before the Lanntair was invented in 1987.

The prevailing wisdom is that Presbyterianism’s abhorrence of idolatry, combined with a Gaelic culture focussed on oral and musical tradition, and above all the cheneral coorseness of the inhabitants, created a milieu hostile to painting and other representational art forms.
But Old SYs will tell you otherwise, especially those who still fondly recall the Renaissance period in the 15th and 16th century, when you couldn’t get near the bar in the Crit for old masters drinking their commissions. 
In fact, when poncy bleigeards on BBC4 go on about “The Plastic Arts” they’re using a term that was originally coined in Lewis. In early November 1478, Cardinal Duoli di Martino, Chief Inquisitor of Parkend, was preparing a big gelly to burn some heretics at the stake, when he discovered that the Plasterfield gang had made off with all his tyres. An outraged di Martino exclaimed “Fleekeen Plastic ceards!”, before heading off in pursuit.
Leomurdo Da Minchi was perhaps the greatest of the island’s ‘Old Mawsters’ and was often referred to as a poly-ma-tha because of his wide ranging artistic and scientific interests. He was at the forefront of the Renaissance in Stornoway and was famed for such works as The Last (Hen) Supper and the Monadh Lisa. The Last (Hen) Supper depicted a squad of 13 slightly inebriated coves sitting on the wall opposite Ye Royal Hotel, whilst eating hen suppers from the Church St chipper, as they waited for the last cart to the West Side to leave Mitchell’s Cart Station. Da Minchi should not be confused with more recent artist Diggum Da Vinci.
His most famous painting was undoubtedly the Monadh Lisa, depicting an unknown blone from the country hanging about on the Barvas Moor, with an enigmatic smile that has puzzled the art world for years. Why is she smiling in this way? Is she getting marags for tea? Are the peatbanks behind her getting cut by coves who fancy her? Has she just pulled an Elder? We’ll neffer know. 
Other exponents of Fuyne Art, and some of their masterpieces, included:
Michaelandersonroad – famous for the ceiling of the Seceder Chapel, with its monumental scenes of angels and elders being holy. 
El Gresscove: The multi-talented El Gresscove was a master of landscape, portrait, sculpture and architecture, though unfashionable in his lifetime because he didn’t adopt the flamboyant and ornate “Early Barrach” style popular at the turn of the 17th century. His most famous works show the influence of Griais Orthodox iconography, and included “View of Tolstapeatbanks”, “Lady in a Bobban Hat” and “The Burial of the Count of ‘Orgabost”, 
Hans Holmroadbein: Ch*rstyal*ne On The Mount of OliversBrae, Portrona Pilate Washing His Drarsh
Calumvaggio: St FrancisStreet of AssayePlace on Ecstasy
Hieronymus Bochd: The Feannag of Earthly Delights
Johannes Ma-sheer: Girl With A Boiled Herring. In recent years this famous painting and the story behind it were the subject of an acclaimed film starring Scarista Johannsen.
Peater Brue-gel The Elder, a highly respected church office bearer from the West Side. Brue-gel’s studio was near Barvas, on the site later occupied by Beetlecrusher’s Muirneag Gallery. His major works included “The Wedding Dance (in the Caber)” and “The Todhar of Bayble”.
The customers for the island’s Renaissance masterpieces were generally the powerful branches of the Macleod, Morrison and Macaulay families, such as the Borgh-ghias from the West side, and South Lochs sheep magnates the Mehhh-dicis. Also top officials in the Comhairle, and the ministers of competing Presbyterian factions looking for pictures of Hell that were more scary than all the others.
There’s plenty more to say about the Fuyne Arts in Stoarnoway during the Renaissance, and indeed in other periods, but that’s our tea ready so we’ll leave it there for now. We hope to return to this topic in further articles if we can be fleekeen bothered.

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