The title of this autumn scene, depicting a herd of deer startled into alertness by the rising flight of geese on a mountain lake, makes double reference to the Scottish subjects of popular nineteenth century art, and to the American wilds. It may have been painted anywhere from the Hudson Highlands in New York to the White Mountains in New Hampshire. Its appeal stems from the romance of wild creatures in a wild place.
James Macdougal Hart was a Scottish-American artist, and the younger brother of the painter William Hart. The family came to America in the 1830s, and James was apprenticed to a sign painter in Albany, New York. He studied with the artists of the Düsseldorf School in Germany in the early 1850s, and returned to settle in New York City. He exhibited widely, became a member of the National Academy and served as its Vice President. He married the painter Marie Theresa Gorsuch in 1866. Their son William Gorsuch Hart also became an artist.