Sound of Sleat Reflections

Celebrating the work of Jon Schueler

Jon Schueler in his Mallaig studio, 1973

Blue Shadow Blues (1983)

Jon Schueler was born In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, in 1916. Trained as a navigator during World War 2, he was sent to Britain in 1942 and flew missions over France and Germany. Back in the States, during an unsettled period after the war, he had various writing, teaching and radio jobs until entering the California School of Fine Art on the GI Bill in 1948. Strongly influenced at first by the Abstract Expressionists, Schueler's own work gradually became less abstract as nature became a strong poetic force. It was to live in his paintings that he left New York in September of 1957 and came to Scotland, attracted by the continual moods and motion of the northern skies.

In his autobiography, The Sound of Sleat he recalls how he met a woman in a hotel north of Campbeltown and told her how he was looking for a place at the edge of the sea in a rugged landscape with a peninsula or an island in the distance so that he could watch the light in the sky move across it – a place where the light over the sea and land was changing constantly.

They met again at breakfast the next morning and the woman told him, "I’ve been thinking of the place you described last night and it was a good description of Mallaig. If you can stand the smell of fish, you should go there."

Schueler spent the winter of 1957-58 in a rented bungalow at Mallaig Bheag and painted 45 paintings there. He became friends with Black Jim Manson and went out with him fishing for herring. The changing skies and moods of the Sound of Sleat left a lasting impression on him.

On a visit to Mallaig in 1967, he had another experience of the Scottish sky that became a major theme in his future repertoire:

"The second experience was in 1967 when I was at sea with Jim Manson, the day of the gale. A mist hung like a curtain, to the sea, haunted by a subtle glow from the direction of Rhum[sic]. I pointed out the image to Jim, who said, "Yes, we call that a sun dog; it's the sign of the gale." This warning of the storm that was to drive us from the sea was the most delicate sign, impossible to draw, impossible to define, impossible to understand except in the most exquisitely sensitive terms."

In 1970 he returned to Mallaig to stay, living in a house on the shore at Glasnacardoch for the next 5 years and returning to work there most summers until his death in 1992.

He exhibited regularly in the United States from the 1950s onwards. His first Scottish exhibition took place at the Mallaig Community Centre in 1971 prior to the Edinburgh showing at the Richard Demarco Gallery. Other exhibitions followed in the capital but by an odd coincidence his last exhibition during his lifetime was also in Mallaig, when the Highland Regional Council brought a travelling exhibition of his paintings to the same venue of 20 years previously. It was an exhibition which brought him deep satisfaction.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Jon Schueler's birth Mallaig Heritage Centre is delighted to be hosting an exhibition of twelve of his works, as part of a programme of events at 11 locations throughout Central and Northern Scotland. Sound of Sleat Reflections can be seen at Mallaig Heritage Centre from 1 April to 31 October 2016.

For more information about Jon Schueler, his life and work, visit