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Art in Scotland
Robert Gavin


ROBERT GAVIN, R.S.A.
Born, 1827; died, 6th October 1883.

One of the Scottish artists who had a great gift of colour was Robert Gavin, a native of Leith, who studied art after his twentieth year, at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh, under Thomas Duncan. An enthusiastic art-student, he soon began to produce excellent pictures of children, with landscape backgrounds, very rich in colour, and free and accurate in drawing, one of which, the Coming Storm, was chromo-lithographed for the Art Union of Glasgow. He also at this time painted some landscapes. Some years after his election as Associate of the Scottish Academy in 1855, he visited America, and broke new ground in the portrayal of incidents in negro life. He afterwards painted a few portraits, and further distinguished himself by such works as Christabel, Phoebe Mayflower and Joceline Joliffe (1866); Going to School, the Bathing-Pool, the Knitter (1867); Negro subjects, &c. (1871), followed by similar works in succeeding years. About 1875 he went to the north of Africa, remaining some time at Tangiers, where the study of the natives afforded him an opportunity of indulging in his favourite scheme of colour, which was rich and glowing, more like that of a native of the peninsula than of one nurtured under the stern Scottish climate. Eight Moorish subjects sent from Tangiers to the Scottish Academy in 1874 were the first results of this Southern study, the most important of which were Horse-shoeing at Tangiers, and a Moorish Girl of Tetuan. The following year his three exhibits consisted of Othello and Desdemona. Moorish Women at a Well (a fine work), and Naaman the Leper and the little Jewish Maid. He remained at Tangiers till 1878, sending home numerous works similar to those mentioned, and was promoted to the rank of full Academician in 1879. He was a regular and prolific contributor to the Edinburgh exhibitions, but rarely to those in London.

Never of very robust health, his constitution was very seriously impaired by his prolonged stay at Tangiers, and he died at his residence in Newhaven about four years after his return home, in his fifty-sixth year. His diploma picture in the Scottish National Gallery, the Moorish Maiden's First Love, is a good example of his style.


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