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Art in Scotland
Charles Lees


CHARLES LEES, R.S.A.
Born, 1800; died, 27th February 1880.

Among the many sufferers by the failure of the City of Glasgow Bank was Charles Lees, who was concerned in it as a trustee on behalf of his sister, and the shock of which brought on a stroke of paralysis which terminated fatally after a few days' illness. He was a native of Cupar in Fifeshire, and studied art in Edinburgh, where he began his career by teaching drawing, afterwards taking to portrait-painting, in which he was benefited by some little instruction from Raeburn. After some years' practice, in the course of which he got married, he spent a few years in Rome studying from the old masters, and returned to Edinburgh, where he resumed his portrait-painting, and joined the Scottish Academy in 1830 along with the seceders from the Royal Institution. He painted some good historical pictures, such as the Murder of Rizzio, the Death of Cardinal Beaton, and John Knox during his Confinement. Being fond of open-air sports and pastimes, he found among these his most congenial subjects, and exhibited Shinty on the Ice in 1861, a charming composition full of hazy light and atmosphere; Skaters at Duddingston Loch, in 1854; Golfers on St Andrews Links, with numerous portraits, in 1865, Curlers, in 1867; and many other similar subjects. In the latter part of his life he devoted himself more to landscape-painting, chiefly from subjects on the east coast, varied by an occasional portrait and domestic scene. Among his landscapes, a View of St Mark's at Venice was very highly spoken of.

He gave a great deal of his time to the management of the affairs of the Royal Scottish Academy, for which he acted as treasurer from 1868 till his death, and he is favourably represented in the Scottish National Gallery by the Summer-Moon Bait- Gatherers, which was exhibited in 1860.

At the close of 1849 he returned to Edinburgh, and was elected to the office of head-master in the old Academy, of which he had been such an honourable pupil, and in the same year exhibited at the Royal Academy his Bride of Lammermoor, which was purchased by Lord Egerton. His Christ walking on the Sea was exhibited at the Scottish Academy in 1850, and, like the former Scriptural subject, has been engraved.' Among his other engraved works are Italian Goatherds, Ruth, and the Glee-maiden (the latter by Lumb Stocks), issued by the Association for the years 1843, 1844, and 1845. In 1847 he was one of the unsuccessful competitors at the Westminster Hall competition with the two previously mentioned Scriptural subjects, at which his brother was more fortunate; and died on the 22d April 1869, after having suffered during the previous eight years from paralysis, in which time the disease prevented his nerveless hand from wielding the brush, which he had so nobly used in the days of his health, although always represented in the Academy.

He had a keen perception of the beautiful in colour and form, which, with a graceful and harmonious flow of line, pervades all his works. His labours as an art teacher have been duly recognised by the artists who had the good fortune to benefit by his teaching, among whom were the late Mr Robert Herdman, Orchardson, Pettie, Peter Graham, Hugh Cameron, and other eminent artists, whose style he has largely influenced. In November of 1870 a monument executed by his pupil John Hutchison, R.S.A., was inaugurated in Warriston Cemetery, consisting of a handsome slab of grey Sicilian marble, with an alto-relievo head in white marble, the cost of which was defrayed by his former pupils.


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