On arriving in Boston in 1828, the English artist Robert Salmon became the most prestigious sea painter and exerted considerable influence on the American Luminists, particularly Fitz Henry Lane. Before moving to America, Salmon had lived in the Scottish port of Greenock, where he painted this landscape belonging to the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection in 1816. This seaport, located east of Glasgow on the river Clyde, was a very beautiful area with many attractions for tourists and artists. In the foreground, before the panoramic landscape, is a bucolic genre scene showing a group of washerwomen performing their daily chores amid a clearing in the path. The backdrop is the town of Greenock, rendered in miniaturist detail, with its smoking chimneys and several boats moored at the harbour or sailing across the estuary with unfurled sails.
As John Wilmerding maintains, the crystalline style, delicate illumination and attention to detail of View of Greenock, Scotland recall the seventeenth-century Dutch landscape tradition and the calligraphic style of Canaletto’s vedute that were very much in vogue in England from the mid-eighteenth century onwards. Salmon combines a topographer’s eye and a vedutista’s keen mastery of drawing with the admirable cloud forms and atmospheric effects of Dutch painting, while the trees that frame the landscape are reminiscent of Claude Lorrain.