It’s been described as the “defining image” of inventor James Watt.

“James Watt and the Steam Engine: the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century”, by James Eckford Lauder (NG 2435), will go on show at the Scottish National Gallery on the Mound in Edinburgh in July 2019.

The painting has been described as the “world’s largest and most spectacular painting” of Watt, and dates from 1855.

Helen Smailes, Senior Curator of British Art at the National Galleries of Scotland says: “Watt is depicted in his workshop experiencing a moment of revelation before he embarks on the improvements to the Newcomen steam engine which eventually brought him international fame. In 1860 reproductive prints after the painting were published simultaneously in London and New York, transforming it into the defining image of the great Scottish engineer.”

Helen previously talked about the masterpiece in 2018 (when it was not on public display). Listen to the audio here . . . . 

Painting: James Watt and the Steam Engine: the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century, by James Eckford Lauder.

James Eckford Lauder (1811–1869)
James Watt and the Steam Engine: the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century, 1855 
Painting, oil on canvas, 147.32 x 238.76 cm
Collection: National Galleries of Scotland, purchased 1986
Photo: Antonia Reeve

Dates: See the painting at the Scottish National Gallery from July 10 to September 8.

Times: Normal opening times for the Scottish National Gallery, extended during the Edinburgh International Festival. See; email: or telephone 0131 624 6200.

Location: Scottish National Gallery, The Mound, Edinburgh EH1 1JD. The painting will be on the main floor, gallery 10.

Admission: Free. No need to pre-book, just turn up during opening hours.

Access to venue: Wheelchair access and step free access is possible via main entrance to the Gallery on the Mound (the lower galleries are currently closed for a major redevelopment). Please note that parking immediately next to the Gallery is not possible. Visit pages on for further information.

Any additional relevant information: The display will feature briefly in the July-October issue of the National Galleries free brochure What’s On.

Organisers: National Galleries of Scotland.

Top image: The painting when it was previously shown in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh. It will re-appear at the National Galleries of Scotland’s site on the Mound on July 10, 2019.

Find out more. See our story on James Watt at the National Galleries of Scotland.