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Sir Henry Raeburn


Henry Raeburn Painting - James Hutton. Geologist by Henry Raeburn

James Hutton. Geologist

Henry Raeburn Painting - Mrs Macdowall by Henry Raeburn

Mrs Macdowall

Henry Raeburn Painting - Portrait Of Thomas Wood by Henry Raeburn

Portrait Of Thomas Wood

Henry Raeburn Painting - Niel Gow . Violinist And Composer by Henry Raeburn

Niel Gow . Violinist And Composer

Henry Raeburn Painting - William Robertson. Lord Robertson by Henry Raeburn

William Robertson. Lord Robertson

Henry Raeburn Painting - Portrait Of William Fraser Of Reelig by Henry Raeburn

Portrait Of William Fraser Of Reelig

William Law of Elvinston (1714-1806)

Portrait of Ms. Eleanor Urquhart

Portrait of Bryce McMurdo

Colonel Alastair Macdonell of Glengarry

Portrait of Mrs Robert Scott Moncrieff

Portrait of Sir John and Lady Clerk

Catherine Vorontsova

Catherine Vorontsova

The Archers

The Archers

The Reverend Robert Walker Skating

The Reverend Robert Walker Skating

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Featured Art - James Hutton. Geologist by Henry Raeburn

James Hutton....

Henry Raeburn

Sir Henry Raeburn (4 March 1756 – 8 July 1823) was a Scottish portrait painter and Scotland's first significant portrait painter since the Union to remain based in Scotland. He served as Portrait Painter to King George IV in Scotland.

Raeburn's studio in Edinburgh's New Town

Raeburn was born the son of a manufacturer in Stockbridge, on the Water of Leith; a former village now within the city of Edinburgh. His ancestors were believed to have been soldiers, and may have taken the name 'Raeburn' from a hill farm in Annandale, held by Sir Walter Scott's family. Orphaned, he was supported by his older brother and placed in Heriot's Hospital, where he received an education. At the age of fifteen he was apprenticed to the goldsmith James Gilliland of Edinburgh, and various pieces of jewellery, mourning rings and the like, adorned with minute drawings on ivory by his hand, still exist. Soon he took to the production of carefully finished portrait miniatures; meeting with success and patronage, he extended his practice to oil painting, at which he was self-taught. Gilliland watched the progress of his pupil with interest, and introduced him to David Martin, who had been the favourite assistant of Allan Ramsay the Latter, and was now the leading portrait painter in Edinburgh. Raeburn was especially aided by the loan of portraits to copy. Soon he had gained sufficient skill to make him decide to devote himself exclusively to painting. George Chalmers (1776; Dunfermline Town Hall) is his earliest known portrait.

Portrait of James and John Lee Allen, early 1790s,

In his early twenties, Raeburn was asked to paint the portrait of a young lady he had noticed when he was sketching from nature in the fields. Anne was the daughter of Peter Edgar of Bridgelands, and widow of Count James Leslie of Deanhaugh. Fascinated by the handsome and intellectual young artist, she became his wife within a month, bringing him an ample fortune. The acquisition of wealth did not affect his enthusiasm or his industry, but spurred him on to acquire a thorough knowledge of his craft. It was usual for artists to visit Italy, and Raeburn set off with his wife. In London he was kindly received by Sir Joshua Reynolds, the president of the Royal Academy, who advised him on what to study in Rome, especially recommending the works of Michelangelo, and gave Raeburn letters of introduction for Italy. In Rome he met his fellow Scot Gavin Hamilton, Pompeo Girolamo Batoni and Byers, an antique dealer whose advice proved particularly useful, especially the recommendation that "he should never copy an object from memory, but, from the principal figure to the minutest accessory, have it placed before him." After two years of study in Italy he returned to Edinburgh in 1787, and began a successful career as a portrait painter. In that year he executed a seated portrait of the second Lord President Dundas.
Raeburn's portrait of Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry (1812)

Raeburn's portrait of Sir Walter Scott (1822)

Examples of his earlier portraiture include a bust of Mrs Johnstone of Baldovie and a three-quarter-length of Dr James Hutton, works which, if somewhat timid and tentative in handling and not as confident as his later work, nevertheless have delicacy and character. The portraits of John Clerk, Lord Eldin, and of Principal Hill of St Andrews belong to a later period. Raeburn was fortunate in the time in which he practised portraiture. Sir Walter Scott, Hugh Blair, Henry Mackenzie, Lord Woodhouselee, William Robertson, John Home, Robert Fergusson, and Dugald Stewart were resident in Edinburgh, and were all painted by Raeburn. Mature works include his own portrait and that of the Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood, the bust of Dr Wardrop of Torbane Hill, the two full-lengths of Adam Rolland of Gask, the remarkable paintings of Lord Newton and Dr Alexander Adam in the National Gallery of Scotland, and that of William Macdonald of St Martin's. Apart from himself, Raeburn painted only two artists, one of whom was Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey, the most important and famous British sculptor of the first half of the nineteenth century. It has recently been revealed that Raeburn and Chantrey were close friends and that Raeburn took exceptional care over the execution of his portrait of the sculptor, one of the painter's mature bust-length masterpieces.[2]

It was commonly believed that Raeburn was less successful in painting female portraits, but the exquisite full-length of his wife, the smaller likeness of Mrs R. Scott Moncrieff in the National Gallery of Scotland, and that of Mrs Robert Bell, and others, argue against this. Raeburn spent his life in Edinburgh, rarely visiting London, and then only for brief periods, thus preserving his individuality. Although he, personally, may have lost advantages resulting from closer association with the leaders of English art, and from contact with a wider public, Scottish art gained much from his disinclination to leave his native land. He became the acknowledged chief of the school which was growing up in Scotland during the earlier years of the 19th century, and his example and influence at a critical period were of major importance. So varied were his other interests that sitters used to say of him, "You would never take him for a painter till he seizes the brush and palette."

The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch, better known as The Skating Minister (1790s)

In 1812 he was elected president of the Society of Artists in Edinburgh, in 1814 associate, and in the following year full member of the Royal Scottish Academy. On 29 August 1822 he was knighted by George IV and appointed His Majesty's limner for Scotland at the Earl of Hopetoun house.[3] He died in Edinburgh.

Raeburn had all the essential qualities of a popular and successful portrait painter. He was able to produce a telling and forcible likeness; his work is distinguished by powerful characterisation, stark realism, dramatic and unusual lighting effects, and swift and broad handling of the most resolute sort. David Wilkie recorded that, while travelling in Spain and studying the works of Diego Velázquez, the brushwork reminded him constantly of the "square touch" of Raeburn.[4] Scottish physician and writer John Brown wrote that Raeburn "never fails in giving a likeness at once vivid, unmistakable and pleasing. He paints the truth, and he paints it with love".[5]

Raeburn has been described as a "famously intuitive"[5] portrait painter. He was unusual amongst many of his contemporaries, such as Reynolds, in the extent of his philosophy of painting directly from life; he made no preliminary sketches.[6] This attitude partly explains the often coarse modelling and clashing colour combinations he employed, in contrast to the more refined style of Thomas Gainsborough and Reynolds. However these qualities and those mentioned above anticipate many of the later developments in painting of the nineteenth century from romanticism to Impressionism.

Sir Henry Raeburn died in St Bernard's House (17 St Bernards Crescent),[7] Stockbridge, Edinburgh. He is buried in St. Cuthbert's churchyard against the east wall (the monument erected by Raeburn in advance) but also has a secondary memorial in the Church of St John the Evangelist, Edinburgh.


Raeburn made more than a thousand paintings spanning fifty years.[5] His subjects include:

Rev Robert Dickson
Sir George Abercromby, 4th Baronet
Dr Alexander Adam
Robert Adam
Mrs Robert Adam
Archibald Alison
Alexander Allan
David Anderson
Sir David Baird
Mrs Henry Balfour (Jane Elliot)[8]
Lady Belhaven
Mrs George Bell
Mrs E Bethune[9]
The Binning children
Hugh Blair
Mrs Irvine J Boswell[10]
Helen Boyle
Andrew Buchanon
John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute[11]
John Campbell of John Campbell Snr & Co.
Colonel Alexander Campbell of Possil
Mrs Alexander Campbell of Possil
Sir Duncan Campbell, Scots Guards
Master John Campbell of Saddell
Rev. Alexander Carlyle
Alexander Carre of Cavers
Master Cathcart
Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey
Charles Christie
Miss Jean Christie
John Clerk, Lord Eldin
Jacobina Copland
William Creech
James Cruikshank
Mrs James Cruikshank
John Cuninghame of Craigends
Mrs Alexander Dirom, (Anne Fotheringham)[12]
Lady Harriet Don, with her son
Elizabeth Douglas of Brigton (née Graham)
The Drummond children[13]
George Duff[14]
James Duff, 4th Earl Fife
Norwich Duff[15]

Henry Dundas, 1st Viscount Melville
Thomas Elder (Lord Provost of Edinburgh)
Lady Elibank
William Fairlie
Archibald Farquharson of Finzean
Robert Fergusson and his brother Lieutenant-General Sir Ronald Fergusson, "The Archers" (Royal Company of Archers)
William Forbes of Callendar (1756–1823), coppersmith and landowner
Mrs Gevine
Eleanor Margaret Gibson-Carmichael
Karl Ludwig Giesecke
William Glendonwyn[16]
Mrs Glendowyn and her daughter Mary
Niel Gow
John Gray of Carntyne
Mrs Elizabeth Hamilton (1757–1816), writer and educationalist
Major James Lee Harvey, Gordon Highlanders[17][18]
Thomas Robert Hay, 11th Earl of Kinnoull
Captain Hay of Spot
Mrs Andrew Hay (Elizabeth Robinson)
Mrs Alexander Henderson
Principal Hill of St Andrews
Mrs George Hill
John Home
The Rt Hon Charles Hope
Hugh Hope
Francis Horner, political economist
Dr James Hutton, geologist
Captain Charles Inglis, naval officer
Sir Patrick Inglis, 5th Baronet of Sunnyside
John Jameson, founder of Jameson Irish whiskey, and his wife Margaret Haig
Francis Jeffrey, Lord Jeffrey
John Johnstone, Betty Johnstone and Miss Wedderburn
Mrs Johnston of Straiton
Mrs Johnstone of Baldovie
Dr Colin Lauder (1750–1831), FRCS, & Burgess of Edinburgh
Zepherina Loughnan, Mrs Henry Veitch of Eliock
William Macdonald of St Martin's
Colonel Alexander Ranaldson MacDonell of Glengarry (1771–1828)
Allan MacDougall WS of Gallanach and Hayfield
General Hay MacDowell
Mrs George Mackay of Bighouse (Louisa Campbell)
Henry Mackenzie
Robert Macqueen, Lord Braxfield (1722–1799), Lord Justice-Clerk 1798
George Malcolm
Mrs Malcolm
Mrs Hugh Smyth Mercer (née Wilson)

Captain Patrick Miller
Alexander Monro
Sir James Montgomery, 2nd Baronet of Stanhope[10]
Thomas Mure of Warriston
Sir William Nairne, Lord Dunsinane, 5th Baronet of Nairne[19]
Sir William Napier, Baronet
Lord Newton
Rev. Principal Nicoll, D.D.
Mrs George Paterson of Huntly Castle
Mrs James Paterson[20]
The Patterson children
John Playfair
Henry Raeburn
Lady Raeburn
Miss Davidson Reid
John Rennie the Elder, engineer
Professor William Richardson[21]
William Robertson
Adam Rolland of Gask
Daniel Rutherford
Colonel Francis James Scott
Sir Walter Scott, 1st Bt
Alexander Shaw
Mrs Simpson
Sir John Sinclair, 1st Baronet
Andrew Spottiswoode[22]
Dugald Stewart
Mrs Anne Stewart
Lieutenant General William Stuart (1778–1837)
John, Lord Swinton
John Tait and his grandson
John Tait of Harvieston
Rev John Thomson (1778–1840) of Duddingston
Eliza Tod of Drygrange (née Pringle)
Lady Anne Torphicen
Captain Willian Tytler
Miss Eleanor Urquhart
Rev Robert Walker (1755–1808) Skating on Duddingston Loch
Dr Wardrop of Torbane Hill
Rev. Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood
Hugh William Williams
Lord Woodhouselee

Henry Raeburn's grave, St Cuthberts, Edinburgh

Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF) II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
David Wilson, '‘Chantrey's solar face': An intriguing mystery about Raeburn's portraits of a great sculptor', The British Art Journal, Vol. XIV, No. 3 [2013/14], pp. 45–57.
The New Annual Register, for year 1822, London, 1823, p. 166.
Muirhead, James Patrick (1859). The Life of James Watt: With selections from his correspondence. London: J. Murray. p. 519. OCLC 778040243
Coltman, 295
David Wilson, '‘Chantrey's solar face': An intriguing mystery about Raeburn's portraits of a great sculptor', The British Art Journal, Vol. XIV, No. 3 [2013/14], pp. 45–57.
The Balfours of Pilrig
"Hermitage Museum".
"Detroit Institute of Arts".
Portrait at Mount Stuart
Dirom genealogy
"Metropolitan Museum of Art".
Naval Museum, Portsmouth
Duff genealogy
"Fitzwilliam Museum".
"Leicester Galleries".
"The Louvre".
Portraits in the hall of the Parliament House in Edinburgh. Edinburgh, Scotland: William Green and Sons, Law Publishers. 1907.
"Portrait of Mrs. James Paterson".
Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, NZ.

"Art Gallery of NSW".


Andrew, William Raeburn. Life of Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A. (London: W.H. Allen & co., 1886).
Armstrong, Sir W. Sir Henry Raeburn (London, 1901.)
Masters in Art, volume 6 (Boston, 1905) p. 423 ff.
Coltman, V. (2013). Henry Raeburn's Portraits of Distant Sons in the Global British Empire. Art Bulletin, 95(2), 294–311.
Clouston, R. S. Sir Henry Raeburn (London: G. Newnes, 1907).
Caw, James Lewis. Raeburn (London, T.C. and E.C. Jack, 1909) – with colour plates of his paintings.
Greig, James. Sir Henry Raeburn: His Life and Works (London: "The Connoisseur", 1911)
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Raeburn, Sir Henry". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
"Raeburn, Henry". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Thurston, H. T.; Moore, F., eds. (1905). "Raeburn". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.

External links

Works in the National Galleries of Scotland
Gallery of works by Henry Raeburn

Artist, UK


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