4 March 1756
Stockbridge, Edinburgh, Scotland
|Died||8 July 1823 (aged 67)|
|Known for||Portrait painting|
|Elected||FRSE, RSA, RA|
|Patron(s)||King George IV|
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Raeburn was born the son of a manufacturer in Stockbridge, on the Water of Leith: a former village now within the city of Edinburgh. He had an older brother, born in 1744, called William Raeburn. 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 William 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. When the medical student Charles Darwin died in 1778, his friend and professor Andrew Duncan took a lock of his student's hair to the jeweller whose apprentice, Raeburn, made a memorial locket.
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.
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. Ann 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.
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, a bust of Dr Wardrop of Torbane Hill, 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 19th 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.
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 early 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."
In 1812 he was elected president of the Society of Artists in Edinburgh; and in 1814 associate, and in the following year full member, of the Royal Scottish Academy. On 29 August 1822 he received a knighthood during the visit of King George IV to Scotland and appointed His Majesty's limner for Scotland at the Earl of Hopetoun house. He died in Edinburgh not long after on 8 July 1823.
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. 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".
Raeburn has been described as a "famously intuitive" 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. 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 19th century from romanticism to Impressionism.
Sir Henry Raeburn died in St Bernard's House 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 50 years. His subjects include:
- Rev Robert Dickson
- Sir George Abercromby, 4th Baronet
- Countess of Aboyne, (Lady Mary Douglas, daughter of James, fourteenth Earl of Morton)
- Dr Alexander Adam
- Robert Adam
- Mrs Robert Adam
- Archibald Alison
- Alexander Allan
- David Anderson
- Sir David Baird
- Mrs Henry Balfour (Jane Elliot)
- Lady Belhaven
- Mrs George Bell
- Mrs E Bethune
- The Binning children
- Hugh Blair
- Mrs Irvine J Boswell
- Helen Boyle
- Andrew Buchanon
- 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
- Mrs Jean Cockburn Ross
- Jacobina Copland
- William Creech
- John Crichton-Stuart, 2nd Marquess of Bute
- James Cruikshank
- Mrs James Cruikshank
- John Cuninghame of Craigends
- Mrs Alexander Dirom, (Anne Fotheringham)
- Lady Harriet Don, with her son
- Lord Douglas (Earl of Home), as a student
- Elizabeth Douglas of Brigton (née Graham)
- Margaret Douglas, of Brigton, afterwards Mrs. Hunter, of Burnside
- Rev. Robert Douglas, D.D., of Galashiels; died 1820
- The Drummond children
- George Duff
- James Duff, 4th Earl Fife
- Norwich Duff
- 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
- Mrs Glendowyn and her daughter Mary
- Niel Gow
- John Gray of Carntyne
- Mrs James Gregory (Isabella McLeod)
- Mrs Elizabeth Hamilton (1757–1816), writer and educationalist
- Major James Lee Harvey, Gordon Highlanders
- Thomas Robert Hay, 11th Earl of Kinnoull
- Captain Hay of Spot
- Mrs Andrew Hay (Elizabeth Robinson)
- Mrs Alexander Henderson
- Principal George Hill of St Andrews
- Mrs George Hill
- John Home
- The Rt Hon Charles Hope-Weir
- Hugh Hope
- Thomas Charles Hope, physician and chemist
- 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
- Lt. Gen. General Hay MacDowall
- Mrs George Mackay of Bighouse (Louisa Campbell)
- Henry Mackenzie
- Francis MacNab, The MacNab
- Robert Macqueen, Lord Braxfield (1722–1799), Lord Justice-Clerk 1798
- George Malcolm
- Mrs Malcolm
- Mrs Hugh Smyth Mercer (née Wilson)
- Captain Patrick Miller
- Robert Scott Moncrieff
- Alexander Monro
- Sir James Montgomery, 2nd Baronet of Stanhope
- Thomas Mure of Warriston
- Sir William Nairne, Lord Dunsinane, 5th Baronet of Nairne
- Sir William Napier, Baronet
- Lord Newton
- Rev. Principal Nicoll, D.D.
- Mrs George Paterson of Huntly Castle
- Mrs James Paterson
- The Patterson children
- John Playfair
- Henry Raeburn
- Lady Raeburn
- Miss Davidson Reid
- John Rennie the Elder, engineer
- Professor William Richardson
- 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
- Dugald Stewart
- Mrs Anne Stewart
- Lieutenant General William Stuart (1778–1837)
- John Swinton, 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
- James Usher of Toftfield
- Rev Robert Walker (1755–1808) Skating on Duddingston Loch
- Dr Wardrop of Torbane Hill
- Rev Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood
- Hugh William Williams
- Lord Woodhouselee
- Dr Rev David Johnston (1934 - 1824) Founder of Edinburgh Asylum for the Industrious Blind (now Royal Blind)
- Waterston, Charles; Macmillan Shearer, A. (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF). Vol. II. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Retrieved 29 December 2011.
- Ernst Krause (1879). Erasmus Darwin. J. Murray. p. 82.
- 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.
- Memoirs of The Life of Sir Walter Scott. J G Lockhart p.130
- Muirhead, James Patrick (1859). The Life of James Watt: With selections from his correspondence. London: J. Murray. p. 519. OCLC 778040243
- Coltman, 295
- Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1840
- The Balfours of Pilrig
- "Hermitage Museum". Archived from the original on 1 August 2012.
- "Detroit Institute of Arts". Archived from the original on 25 May 2006.
- Portrait at Mount Stuart
- Hillman, Charles. "Dirom genealogy". www.kittybrewster.com.
- "Metropolitan Museum of Art". Archived from the original on 13 August 2006.
- Naval Museum, Portsmouth
- Hillman, Sir William Arbuthnot and Charles. "Duff genealogy". www.kittybrewster.com.
- "Fitzwilliam Museum".
- "Portrait of Isabella McLeod, Mrs. James Gregory, c.1798 - Henry Raeburn". www.wikiart.org. Retrieved 18 February 2018.
- "Leicester Galleries". Archived from the original on 8 October 2007.
- "The Louvre".
- William Raeburn Andrew (1894). "Appendix, 156 - Hope, Thomas Charles, M.D.". Life of Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A.: With Appendix. W. H. Allen & Company, limited. p. 156. Retrieved 24 July 2017.
- 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".
- "Edinburgh Asylum for the Industrious Blind".
- 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)
- Macmillan, Duncan (1984), Scottish Painting: Ramsay to Raeburn, in Parker, Geoffrey (ed.), Cencrastus No. 17, Summer 1984, pp. 25 – 29, ISSN 0264-0856
- public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Raeburn, Sir Henry". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. This article incorporates text from a publication now in the
- 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.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Raeburn". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
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