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Jon Schueler (1916 - 1992), born in Milwaukee, with Swiss/German antecedents, lived for years at Mallaig on the West Coast of the Scottish Highlands. An important member of the NYC Abstract Expressionists in the 1950s, the intriguing question, as his friend and fellow artist Ken Dingwall posed, is ‘what the devil was Jon doing in Scotland?’ Joe Boyd went to Mallaig to find out.

Schueler, according to contemporaries, was a charismatic man and an imposing and committed artist. He also played jazz and developed close relationships with well-known musicians like Oscar Pettiford - the great bassist. He mixed with iconic artists such as Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko. He had come to Scotland still in trauma after serving as navigator of a B-17 flying fortress. His relationships had often been fraught. In a fascinating autobiography, ‘The Sound of Sleat’, he revealed how hard he was on himself. The journal entry dated 16 January 1957 states that ‘I am a bad father, a bad stepfather, a bad husband, an indifferent friend, a confused and disloyal lover. Only one thing: I am a good painter.’

Joe was very fortunate to be granted access to Schueler’s whole inventory for research into his quality. This presentation will use images of his paintings, an innovative analysis of his changing colour palettes and deep maps of the Scottish coast to explore how Scotland’s North impacted one artist’s internal landscape. As he himself described it:

‘A north wind blowing off the sea promised clarity…I wanted to be in one spot and watch the painting change. I saw clouds menacing my mind’s eye, and the rain shafts or the mist obliterating horizons and forming new forms with the clouds and land masses blending with the sea. I chose northern Scotland as my cathedral’. 

Joe Boyd. Edinburgh, Scotland.
Recently successfully completed a PhD in Art History at St. Andrews and Lincoln Universities, titled 'Steeped in Place: Encountering Scotland in Paintings of the Sea'. Just over half of the thesis investigated the paintings of Jon Schueler.
Previously, was sole advisor to UKaid project developing the Science curriculum in Northern Nigeria (2015-19), and to EU Aid project supporting two African states to clearly define and update the national curriculum in formal and non-formal educational sectors (2011-2015). Beforehand, had a varied and interesting career in Education, initially as a Science teacher, latterly as Head of two Scottish Secondary schools.



Jon Schueler’s Paintings: An Encounter with Scotland

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