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Art in Scotland
Robert Ronald MacIan


ROBERT RONALD MACIAN, A.R.S.A.
Born, ; died, 13th December 1856.

This artist, engravings from whose works were at one time very popular, and still remain so in the Scottish Highlands, was descended from the old race of the Maclans or Macdonalds of Glencoe. He took to the stage early in his youth, and was great in playing the part of the Dugald Creature in 'Rob Roy' before his eighteenth year, at which time he gave up acting and took to painting. He had all the characteristics of the Celt—an enthusiastic temperament, great energy, and a passionate love and admiration for everything pertaining to his native Highlands.

Among the pictures by which he distinguished himself were a Battle of Culloden and a Highland Feud (robbing an eagle's nest), in 1843. In 1854 he exhibited perhaps what was his most ambitious picture, representing an Encounter in Upper Canada, in which a portion of the Clan Fraser resisted a superior force of French and American Indians. This was a large canvas exhibited in the Scottish Academy, crowded with figures fighting, dying, or dead, in which the passion of the combatants was shown intensified to such a degree as to satisfy the most sanguinary tendencies of the spectator. He appeared in the Royal Academy in 1843 with a Highland Cearnach defending a Pass, which was skied by the hanging committee, and was one of his engraved works. In the same year he published the first part of a book on the Highland Clans, and his Coronach was also shown later on at the Academy.

As would be expected, he was a clever reciter and singer of Scottish songs, being especially great in "Donald Caird" and "We arena fou." The latter song he at one time interpreted so naturally in the house of the late Mr S. C. Hall, that the servant made a confidential inquiry at his master as to whether he ought to procure a cab to convey the gentleman home. At the Eglinton tournament he took the part of a medieval jester. He was elected Associate of the Scottish Academy in 1852, and his death, which occurred at Hampstead, is said to have resulted from an illness aggravated by the news of the deaths of many of his friends in the Crimean campaign.

His wife, Mrs Fanny MacIan, was long the mistress of the Female School of Design in London. She is well known from a popular engraving of her picture representing a Highlander defending his Family at the Massacre of Glencoe. Among her pictures exhibited at the Royal Academy and the British Institution may be mentioned the Empty Cradle, a Highland Cearnach, Dying Cateran, and Liberty and Captivity.


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