Thomas Warrender

Thomas Warrender (fl. 1673–1713) was a Scottish artist best known for a trompe-l'œil Still Life of a letter rack, probably painted around 1708, which is now in the collection of the Scottish National Gallery.[1]


Warrender mainly worked as a decorative painter, and his Still Life indicates he came from Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland and was a burgess and guild-member both in Haddington and Edinburgh.[2] He was active in Edinburgh, seemingly participating in the political debates of the time as well as painting.[3] He may also have taught the painter James Norie (1684-1757) whose work resembled Warrender's.[2]

Still LifeEdit

The Still Life depicts a number of pamphlets and newspapers pinned to a board, along with writing material. It bears a strong resemblance to similar works by the Dutch artist Evert Collier. Marion Amblard suggests that Warrender would have seen work by Collier in the collections of wealthy Scots.[4] Dror Wahrman considers it a copy of Collier, and suggests the date of the work - 1708 at the earliest based on dated printed material shown in the picture - means it was painted after Collier's last known work.[3] The work seems to allude to contemporary political issues, such as the 1707 Act of Union between Scotland and England, symbolised by overlapping playing cards, and refers disparagingly to Roman Catholicism, by reference to the National Covenant and the dangers of popery.[5]

John Walter sees the work as demonstrating changes in British society from the late seventeenth century, with the increasing availability of printed material leading to growing debate in print.[6]


  1. ^ "Thomas Warrender - Still Life". Scottish National Galleries. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  2. ^ a b MacMillan, Duncan (2000). Scottish Art 1460-2000. Mainstream. p. 78.
  3. ^ a b Wahrman, Dror (2012). Mr. Collier's Letter Racks: A Tale of Art and Illusion at the Threshold of the Modern Information Age. Oxford University Press. p. 314.
  4. ^ Amblard, Marion (2012). "The Scottish painters' exile in Italy in the eighteenth century". Études Écossaises. 13: 59–77.
  5. ^ "Dead Standing Things: still life 1660-1740". University of York. 2012. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  6. ^ Walter, John (1996). "The Commons and their Mental Worlds". In John Stephen Morrill (ed.). The Oxford Illustrated History of Tudor & Stuart Britain. OUP. pp. 214–215.