The Scottish bourgeoisie members were keen collectors of The Hague School artworks because of several factors. Wealthy industrialists who had collected paintings in the Highlands tradition during the first half of the nineteenth century lost interest in them by the mid-1850s. They sought another art school that would represent them as a distinct class and nation. John Forbes White played a crucial role in molding the artistic tastes of the Scottish bourgeoisie by writing about and importing The Hague school paintings; the marketing strategies of the art dealers were also of high importance. However, the success of The Hague School in Scotland would not have been possible without the industrial bourgeoisie accepting the aesthetics of contemporary Dutch landscape and rural painting. On the one hand, the paintings' similarity to seventeenth-century Dutch art with its easy to understand subject matter and the French-flavored execution was a means of allowing the Scottish to distance themselves from their British counterparts. By collecting The Hague School paintings, the Scottish bourgeoisie could be viewed as a cosmopolitan social group with a refined and self-confident art taste.
On the other hand, the artworks presented a non-threatening image of rural life without the social unrest that existed in reality at that time. Ultimately, the Scottish bourgeoisie collected The Hague School art because it gave them the comforting illusion of social stability in the countryside, and also because it projected an image of a new successful, confident and cultured social class that deserved the social legitimacy that the aristocracy already possessed. Their motivations for collecting paintings of Dutch rural scenes should not however obscure the importance played by Scottish industrialists collecting The Hague School paintings because it promoted contemporary art which, at this time, was not appreciated in The Netherlands.1 The Scottish collectors of The Hague School constituted a social group who supported a new type of art that was to a certain point traditional in character, but also very modern for its time. Thus, put in other words, they promoted what I call a ‘moderate modernity’ in the (social and) artistic field.
1 J. Reynaerts, ʻDie Äesthetik der Polderlandschaftʼ, in: J. Reynaerts, M. Boom and W. Krul, Der weite Blick. Landschaften der Haager Schule aus dem Rijksmuseum, München 2008, pp. 52-55.