Thursday, August 13, 2009


I found this picture of Oban on the internet today which I'd never seen before:-

It's on the Oban page of Wikipedia. According to WP, it was painted by Norwegian painter Hans Gude in 1889. My first reaction was that date can't be right because the railway reached Oban in 1880 so would this view not be right under what became the Railway Pier and station - what's now the Calmac car ferry terminal? And these houses on the far side of the bay have a pre-railway boom look to them.

Looking at old large scale Ordnance Survey maps of Oban before the railway - which you can do via the National Libraries of Scotland website - I found it hard to place where the cove in the foreground must be in relation to modern features on the south side of Oban bay like the Lighthouse Pier and the Manor House Hotel, even allowing for subsequent development.

Judge for yourself from the 6 inch map surveyed in 1870:-

There are other problems as well. Dunollie Castle (the building that looks a bit like a church in the distance) sits high on a crag in reality and what's that mountain on the right - I could go on.

It all leads me to conclude that Hans Gude - if he ever visited Oban at all - must have got his on-location preliminary sketches muddled up when he got back to his studio in Norway. Either that or he'd lost the sketches (in a freak paddle steamer accident perhaps?) and was painting from memory.

Not that I'm bothered because it's a super painting - the detail of the rocks and the boats in the foreground is super: it's my kind of painting.


  1. The scene is where the lifeboat is moored now, the wall on the left the existing boundary to the N.L.B. depot, so accurate. The opposite side looks like as if it has more 'artistic licence' but then allowing for tree growth ...

    Somewhere, I've got a George Washington Wilson glass plate of the approximately same area.

    Also, see if you can find the images of the never completed Hydropathic ruins - the scale of them will shock you.

  2. Thanks for the feedback David - I thought it was around the LB Station and NLB pier but I haven't been to Oban for a while so couldn't be sure.

    I've never heard of the Hydropathic - sounds interesting!