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The Scottish School of Painting
Chapter VII. Successors of Raeburn


The portrait-painters who worked in the Scottish capital or in Glasgow during the half-century after Raeburn’s death were, as has been said, strongly influenced by the founder of the school. But, except in the case of George Watson, there is little of that direct imitation so often seen in the followers of a great master. Watson Gordon, Graham Gilbert, and Macnee, though their methods derive more or less from Raebum, are men of strong and marked individuality, and, as a group, they compare favourably with the English successors of Reynolds and Gainsborough. George Watson was Raeburn’s junior by only eleven years. From his having been chosen president both of the Associated Artists and of the Scottish Academy, he seems to have been a man of affairs; and this estimate is supported by the kindly yet shrewd countenance which confronts us in the portraits he has left of himself. After receiving some instruction from Alexander Nasmyth he worked for two years with Reynolds, and shortly afterwards commenced practice in Edinburgh. Raeburn, who had just returned from Rome, had the more important commissions, but, if one may judge from the catalogues of twenty years later, the younger artist would not be without his share.

His earlier work shows traces of his apprenticeship, and even as late as 1810 we find him exhibiting a picture entitled Heads of Children, evidently suggested by his former master’s Heads of Angels, now in the National Gallery. But as time passes Sir Joshua’s influence wanes, and Watson aims, not with entire success, at the vigorous touch and characterisation of Raeburn. In the absence of exhibitions, it is difficult to assign his earlier productions to their respective dates. A three-quarter length of Sir George Stewart of Grandtully, in loose scarlet coat, buff waistcoat and breeches, and powdered hair, is dated 1792. In design and arrangement it shows the influence of Reynolds, but in a three-quarter length, William Smellie, which must belong to the years immediately succeeding, there is already in his treatment of a rather ungainly subject, a stiff and laboured version of Raeburn’s broad and simple methods. Some ten or twelve years later in the portraits of his sons, John and William, we find, especially in the latter, the charm of boyhood rendered with a more facile and less imitative brush. From 1808 to 1813 he contributed largely to the exhibitions of the Associated Artists, and their catalogues, with those of the Royal Institution and—later—those of the Scottish Academy, give a fair idea of the nature of his work. Like the other members of the group he is essentially a portrait-painter, but, like most of them, he varies his exhibits with what one may call fancy subjects. A Young Lady—effect of Candle-light, Children going to School, Young Lady at her Toilet, are a few titles selected at random from the earlier catalogues, and when we turn to those of later years we find The Hermit, A Jewish Doctor, The Female Ornithologist. With such like fancies portrait* In the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Painters have generally varied their practice, and their frequency or rarity may be accepted as a tolerably fair gauge of the fulness or slackness of commissions. With Raeburn they hardly occur at all, with Watson they are more or less frequent all through his professional career; but neither in his case nor with the others under consideration do such occasional raids on the domain of the figure-painter imply anything of the versatility of those greater masters who seem unable to confine themselves to any one branch.

To return to the artist’s work, we have in 1810 the Heads of Children already referred to, and two years later a portrait of the eccentric Archie Shirving, possibly the half-length now in the Scottish National Gallery, though another has come under the observation of the writer. The former represents a handsome man of aquiline-featured type, clean shaven and fresh-coloured. His longish fair hair, slightly grizzled, and linen in some dishabille, mark the Bohemian character ascribed to him ; but in respect of artistic treatment, the painter can hardly be said to have risen to the opportunities so picturesque a subject afforded. A few years later in his Benjamin West Watson reaches his high-water mark. It is a half-length with the figure, seen almost in profile, relieved against a canvas on which one or two painted figures are dimly visible. In coat of dark brown, and with right hand on a thin calf-bound volume, the President faces round as if with attention suddenly arrested. Here the character of the compact, square-built head is rendered with appropriate vivacity, and a technique free from the heaviness which so often mars his work when he essays this Raeburn-like handling. The scheme is reticent throughout, a touch of blue on the right sleeve being all the painter has allowed himself in the way of positive colour. The sober harmonies are everywhere subordinated to the personality which dominates this fine canvas, the most notable of the painter’s achievements. Though the influence of Raebum is felt, it is not too obvious. For comparatively few of his works can as much be said. All through, his method alternates between the smooth, insipid manner of the Skirving and a heavy-handed imitation of the Scottish master. Only on rare occasions does he attain to the personal note which marks the Benjamin West. He was a frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy, and, on account of the impression he made there, he was invited to London about 1815, on which occasion he painted the portraits of the Dean of Canterbury, Lord and Lady Combermere, and the characteristic West described above.

George Watson followed Raebum so closely that he may almost be called a contemporary. The product of the same age, his training differed from that of the greater painter in one important particular—there are no student years in Italy. The fact is interesting; it marks the close of an old order. With those born towards the end of the century the Roman apprenticeship is no longer an article of faith.

George Watson’s nephew, afterwards Sir John Watson Gordon, is generally recognised as the ablest of those who may more strictly be called successors of Raeburn, that is, of those who took-up his practice and carried his traditions well into the second half of the nineteenth century. A pupil of Graham, Watson’s ambition was to be, like his master, a painter of history. Accordingly we find him making his debut at the first exhibition of the Associated Artists with a Historical Picture. The year following —1809—he takes higher ground, The Battle of Bannockburn, with a long descriptive title, and Queen Mary forced to Abdicate the Crown, similarly set forth in a quotation from Robertson’s “History of Scotland,” figuring amongst his contributions. With John it is no mere varying portrait work with fancy subjects, as in the case of his uncle and others. He sticks gallantly to his guns, and all through the society’s exhibitions, to which his contributions were numerous, while there is little mention of portraiture, we have from his brush the stock subjects of the history man of the period. After 1821, however, Watson is fairly launched on portrait-painting, and ten years later, at the Scottish Academy, he says good-bye to such themes with The Knight of the Leopard's Dog seizing the Marquis of Montserrat. From the date of Raeburn’s death, indeed, he had been recognised as his successor, and for the next forty years he fills the role and carries on the traditions of the founder of the school. An equal success attends him through life. A member of the reconstructed Scottish Academy in 1830, he was elected to the Associateship of the Royal Academy in 1841, and nine years later he attained full honours. The same year he succeeded Sir William Allan as President of the Royal Scottish Academy. For fourteen years more he worked with unabated vigour, and died, also like Raeburn, with faculties unimpaired, though nearly ten years older.

The early subject and fancy pictures are little known. A Grandfather’s Lesson, his diploma-picture, was virtually a portrait of his father, handkerchief on knee, acting tutor to a fair-haired little girl. Painted in the bituminous style popular at the time, it has been withdrawn from exhibition. In the small Laird of Cockpen, in the Dundee Albert Institute, there is more of the subject composition, and considerable spirit is displayed in the rendering of a well-known Scottish song. From the catalogues of the Royal Institution and of the Scottish Academy one can get a fair idea of the sequence of Watson Gordon’s portraiture. Fortunately, he departs from Raeburn’s irritating and almost universal practice of giving only such titles as Portrait of a Lady, of a Nobleman, of a Gentleman, and his work represents as completely the society and notabilities of the day, including the nobility of every rank in their official or private capacities, great soldiers and sailors—survivors of the Napoleonic wars —governors and administrators of colonies and dependencies. The Church, the College of Justice, and the Universities contribute many distinguished names. Sir Walter and the lesser lights who came after him are there, with shrewd provosts, notable merchants, and distinguished professors of his own craft. In these Watson Gordon’s record is hardly inferior to that of the earlier master. His female portraiture scarcely adds to his reputation, but it was by no means insignificant in bulk. One such, The Baroness Naime and Son, in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, may be attributed to the years 1810-15. The picture is a half-length, and the sweet singer of the Jacobite movement is seated at an angle between profile and three-quarters. A book closed over the right forefinger is on her knee, and with the left arm she clasps her boy, who is seen full front. Her dress is of dark plum colour, and a lace cap frames in a face of pale complexion to which dark, wide-open eyes impart a dreamy, wistful expression. The technique, though capable, is immature, with little sign as yet of the painter’s later characteristics. Another, signed 1819, Miss Watson,* afterwards Mrs. Campbell, depicts a young lady of fair complexion, blue-grey eyes, and light brown curls clustered low on the temples. Her dark dress is cut low with short sleeves. There is a glint of gold necklet, and a fold of yellow scarf crosses the gloved right arm. The flesh, almost shadowless, is painted with a fine fusion of half-tones, and in a pretty equal impasto. Here the subject is more attractive, and one might have predicted, from its sympathetic rendering, a successful career as a painter of the sex.

The half-length of Dr. Andrew Duncan,f Professor of Medicine at the University from 1783 to 1819, may belong to about the same date. Here we recognise the later Sir John in embryo. The arrangement is simple and the character well expressed. It is low-toned and lacks glow of colour. The full length of Lord President Hope in the Signet Library, exhibited in 1882, is a typical example of his middle period. The grave demeanour of the Lord President accords well with the robes of red and ermine. The head is modelled and the character admirably rendered through a skilful use of half-tones, the pronounced shadows being confined to the markings under nose, brow, and chin, which are keen and quick; an adaptation of a certain phase of Raeburn’s practice. In many of the artist’s works, this breadth of half-tone, not of the finest quality, involves the something of dulness referred to above. Here it is scarcely felt, for the scheme of lights and darks has been so arranged as to make the head tell strongly against a sombre and rather forced background of the Parliament House colonnade and square. Hudson’s advice to his pupils: “Remember the candlestick and the candle; let the head be the flame,” has not been forgotten.

After this date the tendency is towards a simpler style, and a more natural lighting. A portrait-painter in full employment cannot afford to waste his time in experimenting; he must adopt a formula. Under such conditions mannerisms are wont to appear, and it is so with Watson Gordon. Fortunately, the manly vigour of his work keeps them from asserting themselves unpleasantly, nor do they hinder him from reaching his highest achievements late in life. The run of his work is slighter—more superficial, one would say—but such portraits as Lord Cockbum, The Provost of Peterhead, and David Cox show that his interest needs only to be aroused by some more than usually congenial subject to call forth an art more accomplished, though more reticent, than he wielded in his earlier prime. The beginnings of a more robust and natural manner can be traced back to the portraits of Scott, painted for Cadell in 1830, and of The Ettrick Shepherd in the possession of Messrs. Blackwood. These have a good deal in common, and the probability is that they are products of about the same date. Both are seen full front and to the knee, both are seated, in much the same attitude, with hands rested on the crooks of their walking-sticks. Sir Walter, in coat of invisible green, pale buff' vest and black stock, is posed against a shadowed wall, with a strip of low-toned sky and landscape suggestive of Tweed and Eildon. The massive head with locks now silver grey is finely modelled, and the gradations of the flesh are rendered with the artist’s usual deftness of touch. The incisive level shadows which mark the deep-set eyes are given with great spirit, and the painting throughout is with a full brush, and a material, in parts, a little dense and heavy. The head and fore-quarters of a staghound at the minstrel’s left knee are brushed in with a master hand. Hogg’s portrait is, in some ways, even more interesting, for an effect, unusual with the artist, has been chosen. The shepherd, swathed in the ample folds of his plaid, is set against a leafy background of some “ dell without a name.” The rugged homely features are mostly in broad shadow, and the slightly-parted lips, weathered complexion, and sandy-coloured hair, are rendered with that easy picturesque touch, which became to Watson Gordon what the hatchet-like modelling was to Raeburn—an invaluable instrument for the seizure of character. In the same “old saloon” at 45 George Street, but separated from it by an interval of more than twenty years, there hangs a portrait of his companion of the Nodes—John Wilson—no longer the “ Christopher ” of the ambrosial nights, but the Professor of Moral Philosophy in his later years, with eye somewhat dimmed and natural force abated. Here the leonine head and dishevelled yellow hair, only slightly touched by his sixty-eight years, are treated in the painter’s more conventional manner. It is signed, and dated 1852, and it is instructive thus to be able to compare the earlier and the later manners of the painter in two of his most picturesque and eminent sitters.

The full length of Lord Cockbum (1853), the seated three-quarter lengths of Roderick Gray, Provost of Peterhead (1854), and of David Cox painted the following year, represent the artist at his best. The subjects no longer pose like the Dalhousie at the Archers’ Hall, nor confront us in one or other of the familiar attitudes, the stock-in-trade of portrait-painters. Some characteristic has been noted, some familiar aspect, expression, or gesture admits us to the inner sanctuary of the sitter’s personality. In the first, the tall, spare figure of Cockbum is set against the tree-stems and russet foliage of his own Bonaly. The venerable senator wears the black cut-away coat and close-fitting trousers of the period. Placed at an angle to the spectator and with hands behind his back, he regards us with the look of one hardly awakened from some abstract train of thought. The finely-formed head is bald over the brow, the kindly eyes are of a deep hazel, and the features, though scarcely handsome, bear the impress of a life moulded by sweet and healthy influences. All this has been suggested by the artist with a felicity and reticence which leave little to be desired. The touch is soft and full, and the modelling, especially of the lower parts of the face, is achieved with that mingled ease and completion which leave in the finished work something of the spontaneity of a sketch. The painting of the figure recalls Raebum at his best. With a great scumble of semi-transparent pigment and a few well-directed markings to give form and sheen, the broadcloth suit is brushed in and accented with a touch of creamy-white neckcloth. The conventional background of pillar and curtain has been discarded for an abstract of Bonaly policies with a shoulder of the Pentland and a sky of blue-grey clouds.

The Provost of Peterhead shows all the subtle charaeterisation of the Cockbum. The painter has again been fortunate in his subject, though the type is widely different. The portrait, one reads, was presented to Mr. Gray by the Merchant Company as a recognition of the services he had rendered in the management of their Aberdeenshire properties. One can well understand it. Behind the good-humoured expression of the deep-set eyes there is a sufficiency of the hard-headed Aberdonian; shrewdness and caution are writ large on the rugged features, with that sense of leisureliness which inspires confidence ; he may go about things in his own way, but few opportunities will escape him. The very attitude one feels is habitual — cross-legged, with fingers interlaced on the knee and body well stooped forward. Just so in many an interview or three-cornered talk he has advanced the company’s affairs. It is a masterpiece of character, and, as always in such creations, the means are simple and appropriate. The accumulated knowledge of forty years is summed up in these apparently easy markings and gradations whose combination gives perfect relief to tbe homely features of the north-country lawyer. Here, by a happy chance, all Sir John’s excellences are seen at their best, and his defects are little in evidence. For a painter approaching the three-score and ten it is astonishingly virile. And this quality was sustained not only in his fine portrait of David Cox of the following year, but till he was well over the allotted span of life.

Though founded on Raeburn’s broad manner of seeing* Watson Gordon evolved a technique peculiar to himself. From beginning to end he borrows little from his predecessor in this respect; his handling is as distinct in the portraits of Mr. Healtie and Mrs. Campbell, signed 1819, as in those of the later fifties. There is neither the mosaiclike laying together of planes of Raeburn’s early practice, nor the richer fusion of his full development; but a method which never quite gets rid of a picturesque incompletion. This is why he succeeds best where the character of his sitter has been well accented by the wear and tear of life, and, for the same reason, he fails as an exponent of the charm and grace of womanhood. His shortcoming in this department is of itself sufficient to place him in a lower rank than Raeburn and the great English painters of the eighteenth century; but even on his own ground he is not their equal. As a colourist he is their inferior both as respects arrangement of the masses and in quality (the term implies that which imparts to the tints the palpitating or go-and-come aspect we are familial- with in nature). In regard to the former, he and his contemporaries fell on evil times, for, in male attire at least, the respectable black had already superseded the variety of costume of the preceding generations. For a while a remnant of the picturesque was left in frills and ruffles of neckcloth and wristband, but the advent of the black stock soon completed the triumph of monotone. When the full side-whiskers came into fashion, and when they were dark, or dyed black as they often look, one cannot but pity the plight of the unfortunate artists who had to face such a problem. True, there were the official portraits, but the uniform of the services, and the ofttimes crude trappings of provosts and magistrates, were a poor substitute for the claret and puce, the dull greens and rich browns of the eighteenth, or even for the blue and buff of the early nineteenth centuries. It says much for the Scottish painters that they were able to avoid the slightly dandified airs of the successors of Lawrence dining the William IV. and early Victorian period. Colour-schemes were, in truth, well nigh impossible in the ordinary male portraiture of those days; but to the painter with a keen sense of “quality” the monotone of black broadcloth has no terrors. One has only to think of what the Venetians, Velasquez, and the great Dutchmen have made of their “ gentlemen in Black ” to be convinced of this ; and though the cut-away coat and formless nether garments of his day rendered the task more arduous, Watson Gordon, when at his best, deals with the problem not unsuccessfully. Both in the Lord Cockburn and Roderick Gray the treatment of the drapery is quite masterly. There is nothing in either case of the inky or blue-black which so repels us in some contemporary work, and from which his own is at times not altogether free, nor of the clotting of surface characteristic of more modem methods. In this respect he follows the best traditions of the great masters in a manner closely akin to that of Raebum. The broad scumble of olive-toned material over an umber ground is grateful to the eye, harmonising at once with flesh and background, and the markings which denote form or fold are laid down with a touch so suave and sure that its restfulness is undisturbed by the completion thus secured. In the all-important matter of flesh-painting his inferiority is more marked, for even at his best it lacks the inner glow which gives vitality to the countenance and makes it dominate its surroundings. His half-tones are often heavy, and the transition greys of an unpleasant bluish-black. He is said to have mixed bath-brick with his colour, as Muller used chalk, and something of the dulness of that material cleaves to his paint. From the full consequences of such defects, his grasp of character and the pictorial touch and treatment by which it is attained save him, and in its best manifestations his technique very nearly equals in its results the more complete fusion of the greater masters.

Of the three portrait-painters born in the last decade of the eighteenth century, and who may be regarded as contemporaries of Watson Gordon, John Graham (better known as John Graham Gilbert) is undoubtedly the ablest —the only one, indeed, who may be said from some points of view to challenge Sir John’s premier position. Like another of the trio, Colvin Smith, he supplemented his training at the Royal Academy with a year or two’s study in Italy. But the two generations which had elapsed since the days of More and Hamilton had materially changed the purport of the Scottish students’ visit to the peninsula. They no longer pay homage to the successors of Masucci and Imperiali; and in place of occupying themselves on such subjects as Nausicaa and Ulysses or Agrippina with the Ashes of Germanicus, they devote themselves to the study of the great masters. To this Graham added the portrayal of subjects from contemporary Italian life. Amongst bis earliest contributions to the exhibitions of the Royal Institution we find such titles as Lady in Venetian Dress, A Bandit of the Alps, Italian Lady. These and the Rebecca, sent to the first exhibition of the Dilettanti Society of Glasgow in 1828, reflected the romantic influence of Scott and Byron, and, though his true strength lay in portraiture, he hankered after such subjects to the end. His first visit to Italy was followed by three or four years in London, but in 1827 we find him settled in Edinburgh and taking part in the art movements then stirring the modem Athens.

From such a training there resulted, as was to be expected, a style differing considerably from that of the Watson family. The Raeburn influence is less evident. The earliest work which has come under the writer’s notice, is the three-quarter length portrait of William Mtirdoch,* the inventor of gas illumination. Here the difference from the early works of Raeburn and the Watsons is strongly pronounced. Instead of a thin somewhat starved material and narrow shadows, we find the handsome features and dignified mien of the great innovator presented to us through a technique which has caught something of the softer shadows and fuller fusion of the Venetians. In this work, which must belong to the years spent in London, and more notably in the portrait of James Hamiltonthe artist has united his mellower scheme with a characterisation he did not always attain in after years. The latter, painted in 1826, has a rare individuality. Seated in easy posture, Hamilton recalls to us a type of those days—a survival of a yet earlier generation—who, in his youth, may have trod the plain-stanes and mixed the genuine stuff with Captain Paton of blessed memory. The quaint upward glance, the curiously arched eyebrows and low forehead on which droop brown locks of hair, or wig, have been observed and rendered with an intimacy rarely excelled. The varied browns and olives of riding dress and accessories show to advantage the weathered features, which by contrast beam with a ruddy glow, while the note of deep crimson in chair and table-cover, the keen white of cravat and duller whites of the documents on the table, save the arrangement from monotony. This portrait, by a fortunate combination of picturesque sitter, painter-like treatment, and a happy choice of scheme, seems to stand apart in the artist’s practice. More accomplished achievement we certainly have in the Gibson and Watson Gordon of his later prime, but nothing quite on the lines of this early work, which has a gusto and verve of handling all its own.

In Lord Kingsburgh’s collection are several examples which show strongly the Italian influence. These include The Love Letter, Lady Drawing, and various smaller fancy subjects. The first is characteristic of Graham’s work in this vein. It was exhibited at the Royal Institution in 1829, and represents a young girl of fine Italian type, who has fled to some shady garden nook the better to enjoy the missive just received. She wears the wide-sleeved white dress and red-laced corset so often called into requisition by the artist, and leans an elbow on a low pedestal as she reads. A half-amused half-mischievous expression pervades the handsome features, and one does not altogether envy the original of the miniature which lies by the softly rounded arm. The effect is the fascinating one of broad shadow, which suits so well this class of subject, and the various reflected and transmitted lights, the direct illumination on cheek and shoulder, and the deep Venetian red of the bodice make a fine symphony with dark hair, luminous shadow, and the russet foliage of the background. The Italian dress is used in portraits of Miss Agnes Hume and Mrs. Elizabeth Hume—the latter with a guitar—whilst in the three-quarter length of a Lady Drawing the effect as well as the dress of The Love Letter is repeated. If this is the picture exhibited under that title in 1850, it shows how the artist clung to this nature of subject. The technique of these works differs considerably. In The Love Letter the breadth of shadow is wrought with scumbles over a fairly solid under-painting. Viewed closely the colour thus attained is of no very fine quality, and the modelling also seems inadequate ; but at a few yards distance, so skilfully have the means been calculated, the surface is complete and the flesh glows and palpitates. In the two portraits, where there is comparatively little shadow, the flesh painting is of an equal and heavier consistency, and the construction is little indicated by the brushwork, thus differing from the normal Scottish practice of the period.

In the early thirties Mr. Graham transferred his studio to Glasgow, and the West of Scotland was thenceforth his headquarters. By his marriage to Miss Gilbert, and .her succession to her uncle’s estate of Yorkhill shortly thereafter, the artist was placed in a position which enabled him during the next fifteen years to make frequent visits to the Continent, and to devote himself mostly to the production of suhject-pictures of the nature already indicated. Happily portraiture does not altogether disappear, for to these years may be assigned various fine examples of both sexes, and in 1847 we have the bust portrait of John Gibson in the Scottish National Gallery. This quiet and reticent presentment of the sculptor of The tinted Venus is one of the artist’s finest achievements. It is simple in the extreme. Gibson is seen full front in the black dress and stock of the period. Though approaching sixty at the time, his hair is still dark and abundant. The face has a modified ruggedness of feature, the eyes are brown, the mouth firmly compressed, and there is about the arrangement of hair and dress an artistic neglige, which distinguishes it from the ordinary “portrait of a gentleman.” The linen, exposed by a well-opened vest, and the glint of collar tell as the highest lights in a sober scheme which is completed by a background of deep olive. In regard to treatment, the artist has adopted a lighting which illumines the expanse of linen, while mingling shadow and half-tone with the lights of the flesh. It is in the skill with which this is accomplished that the mastery of the picture consists. Graham Gilbert here uses a method unlike that of Raebum or Watson Gordon. The way the umber shadows interlace with the half-tones suggests everywhere infinity of gradation, and the fuller impasto of the lights is so applied as to give grain to the varied surfaces of the skin. The work is nowhere what artists call tight, and its openness of fibre has much of the charm attained in more recent times by means of broken colour. In his full-length portrait of Sir John Watson Gordon the difference of method is less marked; indeed, Graham Gilbert’s manner here curiously approximates to that of his subject. The President, who is in court dress, fronts the spectator in easy posture, but turns the head with a slightly upward movement so as to face the light. This ordinary effect, with its narrow shadows, is that usually adopted by Sir John, and implied a more solid modelling than had been employed in the Gibson. So there is less of the interlacing and scumbling of umbers and half-tones, and a breadth of impasto handled in a manner which recalls Watson Gordon’s picturesque touch. If there is not all the descriptiveness of Sir John at his best, the colour is more luminous and free from those leaden half-tones which so often mar the handiwork of the President. For the rest, the work is of great spirit. The court costume with its frills and ruffles is a welcome change from the broadcloth of the period and goes well with the breadth of shadowed wall, the rich carpet and looped curtain which furnish the colour-notes in a dignified arrangement.

In female portraiture Graham Gilbert is more successful than Watson Gordon. His softer brush suits better the more refined modelling and delicate gradations of complexion. Sometimes, indeed, in his more highly finished work, completion of surface is attained at the expense of more valuable qualities, and the painter is perhaps at his best where a slightly looser style has been adopted, as in the bust portrait of Lady Southampton* Here the easy modelling of the flesh and the picturesque treatment of the stray ringlets and the accessories of the dress give an additional charm to the fine features and winsome expression of the young countess. This grace of spontaneity is apt to evaporate in the more highly finished work, of which the half-length of his wife at Yorkhill may be taken as a representative example. One misses the ease and fluency of the Lady Southampton, but the method seems to suit the smooth skin and regular features of Mrs. Gilbert’s type of beauty; and the modelling, especially of the lower part of the face, combines finish with a sensitive rendering of the flesh.

The qualities which differentiate Graham Gilbert from his Scottish contemporaries have heen indicated in the comparisons already made. His average portraiture falls short of that of his formidable rival. Preoccupied with colour and fusion of surface, he fails sufficiently to note the underlying structure which gives individuality to form and feature. In drapery his treatment of black is less satisfactory than that of Raeburn or Watson Gordon. It has neither their grateful warmth of tone, nor does he observe so carefully or express so simply that incidence of light on it which gives form to the mass. The Gibson illustrates both shortcomings. In his fancy figures and in his portraits of ladies he sometimes introduced a landscape background reminiscent of the Venetians, where a precision in the masses of leafage and the drawing of tree stems differs widely from the loosely expressed abstracts used by Raeburn and, with modifications, by his followers.

Colvin Smith and William Smellie Watson, whose lives were almost exactly contemporaneous, represent in their training the two tendencies at work during this transition period. The former supplemented his years of study at the Royal Academy with a lengthened visit to the Continent, whilst the latter, true to the traditions of his family, contented himself with what was to be had within the four seas of Britain. Of the two, Colvin Smith takes the more prominent position. Establishing himself in Raeburn’s studio shortly before the founding of the Scottish Academy he succeeded before long in attracting to the historic painting-room a large clientele. He was one of those who seceded from the Institution in 1830, and he continued a zealous supporter of the Academy throughout his long professional career. Watson, as was natural, followed his father’s lead, and was a member of the Academy from its commencement. Like him, he varies his contributions with fancy subjects, possibly from the same cause. Neither can be said to come into the front rank of Scottish portrait-painters, and though Smith, now and again, gives evidence of much ability, he stops short of anything that can be set alongside the best work of Watson Gordon or Graham Gilbert. He places his subjects well on the canvas, his treatment of light and shade is broad and simple, and his brushing painter-like; but his colour in the flesh alternates betwixt a ruddy low tone, as in the portraits of Lord Pitmilly and John Clerk of Eldin in the Parliament Hall, and the rather earthy impasto of his Lord Jeffrey and President Hope in the Queen Street Galleries. The three-quarter length of Sir James Gibson Craig of Riccarton at the Signet Library is better. It is painted in a strong scheme of black, umber, and yellow, and though the flesh is low toned, a pretty decided chiaroscuro, with the buff and white of vest and neckcloth, gives variety to the arrangement. In full lengths, of which he painted many, Smith’s qualities of simplicity and breadth stand him in good stead, whilst his defects as a colourist, and want of the more delicate shades of modelling are less felt. In such he shows to great advantage in Robert Ferguson of Raith, the Earl of Lauderdale in his Robes of the Order of the Thistle, and Sir James Spittal, as Lord Provost of Edinburgh. The colour scheme supplied by the official dress in the last-named seems to have induced a finer quality throughout; the portrait holds its own with good examples of Watson Gordon and Graham Gilbert in the same room.

Smellie Watson is less known than the other members of the group. Neither at the Mound nor at Kelvingrove does his name appear in the catalogue; but in the Queen Street Galleries he is represented by a three-quarter length of George Thomson, the well-known correspondent of Robert Bums, and at the Scottish Academy there is a bust portrait of William Nicholson, and a half-length of himself. This last shows a head less strongly moulded, but of somewhat similar type to that of his relative Sir John. It is painted with considerable spirit, and in its monotonic scheme, which also Characterises his general practice, it shows more the influence of his cousin’s later manner than of his father or Raeburn. His fancy and subject pictures are rarely seen, and scarcely add to his reputation. He was a keen ornithologist, and bequeathed his collection of birds to the Edinburgh University Museum.

John Syme was more directly influenced by Raeburn than the other portraitists of the first half of the century. This is hardly to be wondered at, seeing he is said to have been in his youth an assistant at 32 York Place. There is some obscurity concerning the extent to which Raeburn availed himself of the services of assistants. To judge from internal evidence, one would say very little, but at all events it is known that Syme finished what was left in the studio at his death. When his name first appears in the catalogue of the Associated Society in 1812, and for many years afterwards, he hails from the same address as his uncle, Patrick Syme, a flower-painter. In 1825, however, we find John, whose earliest contributions had been of the same genre, in full practice as a portrait-painter and established in Abercomby Place. For a considerable time he had a large and, to judge from the names, a lucrative practice, no doubt due in part to his association with Raeburn, but towards the later thirties it begins to fall off. His contributions to the Academy’s exhibitions are fewer, and subject-pictures more and more take the place of portraits. Either his stronger contemporaries supplanted him in the more lucrative walk, or having made enough, he preferred the quieter life of the subject and landscape painter. As is the case with Smellie Watson, his work is not much seen in our public galleries. His half-length of the Rev. John Barclay at the Mound is a good example and shows strongly the influence of Raeburn—strange to say, more of the Raeburn of an earlier time than of the period during which he had been associated with him. It looks as if the fuller qualities of the master’s later years being beyond his reach, he had fallen back on the thinner, more mosaic-like manner of his first period. There is good character in the not very handsome features of the reverend doctor, whose scientific leanings are indicated by the skull on the table beside him; and the flat surfaces and narrow shadows express well the form, though the want of half-tones deprives the near side of the face of the salience one could desire. His bust portrait of himself, belonging to the Scottish Academy—painted probably about 1840—shows him to greater advantage, or at least in a more individual manner.

Two others fall to be noted whose work was of a different nature, William Nicholson and William Yellow-lees. Nicholson belonged to Newcastle, but about 1814 we find him settled in Edinburgh and contributing largely to the later exhibitions of the Associated Artists. In 1821 his name reappears in the catalogue of the Institution, one of his contributions to that year’s exhibition being a portrait of WiUiam Allan in Tartar Costume. His best work, which was on a small scale and in water-colour, will be noted later. Yellowlees, known as the “Raeburn in little,” worked on the same scale, but in oil. His work is little known, and much of it is in anything but good condition, he also having fallen a victim to the abuse of bitumen. The bust portrait of Mr. John Jamieson in the Queen Street galleries is a fairly good example, and both in handling and effect sufficiently justifies the title he has earned. Of several characteristic works in the possession of his nephew, Mr. Yellowlees, Selkirk, those of the artist’s father and mother, that of the Earl of Buchan, and one of a Miss Bums—afterwards Mrs. Pender—are the best. The female portraits especially are strongly reminiscent of Raeburn, if one can fancy his rendering of character and the direct touch by which it is attained on this diminutive scale. The Earl of Buchan has more individuality. The head, of fine aquiline type, is modelled with strong and sensitive touch, whilst the long grey hair and the accessories of the costume give picturesqueness to the subject.

Of those already enumerated, only Watson Gordon and Graham Gilbert can be said to have added anything to the equipment of the school, but the others show the value of a fine tradition in sustaining the man of average talent and saving his work from the trivialities into which portrait-painting is apt to drift. Five of these successors of Raeburn came, as it were, in a bunch. The years 1794-6 cover their birth dates, but seven and ten years elapse ere the succession is continued in two painters who attained to the highest honours art has to bestow, in England and Scotland respectively. Francis Grant was born in 1803 and Daniel Macnee three years later. Their youth and early professional life differed widely. A younger son of the laird of Kilgraston, in Perthshire, Grant is mentioned by Sir Walter Scott as dividing his time between fox-hunting and similar sports and painting. Whilst studying law in Edinburgh he had developed a predilection for art, and stirred, no doubt, by the movements of the time, he abandoned the career, then the mainstay of younger sons of the nobility and gentry, and took up art seriously. His talent and progress were such that the fortune he had hoped to make at the Bar came early to him in the hardly less lucrative profession of portrait-painting. He was one of those admitted to the Scottish Academy in 1830, but about 1834 he transferred his headquarters to London, where his aristocratic connection and love of sport soon brought him fame and fortune. Macnee began differently. Early deprived of his father, he had to Jend for himself in the Kirkgate of Glasgow with Horatio Macculloch and W. L. Leitch as companions. Nevertheless, by indomitable perseverance, doing whatever came in his way—chalk heads at a few shillings apiece, anatomical drawings for doctors, and illustrations for engravers—he fought his way into the front rank of native portrait-painters; so that, long ere they had attained their highest honours, the names of these two Scotsmen are bracketed by Theophile Gautier in his critique of the Paris International of 1855, Les Beaux Arts en Europe Alluding to Macnee’s Dr. Wardlaw, the distinguished art critic remarks, “ M. Macnee nous parait, avec M. Grant le meilleur portraitiste de 1’ecole Anglaise, si nous en jugeons sur cette echantillon unique ; car c’est l’unique toile que l’artiste ait envoyee a l’Exposition, et nous le regrettons.’’

Grant retained through life the characteristics indicated in Sir Walter’s early reference to him. When at the top of his profession as a fashionable portrait-painter, and even when the cares and responsibilities of the Presidentship were laid on him, Sir Francis divided his time between painting and fox-hunting. He lived and died, not as other presidents, but curiously combining the rdle of a Reynolds with that of a Lowther or an Anstruther Thomson. Such a life is far removed from the artist’s ideal, and it is small wonder that it is reflected in his work. Scott, in the passage already quoted from, says: “He used to avow his intention to spend his patrimony—about J?10,000—and then again to'make his fortune by law. The first he soon accomplished. But the law is not a profession so easily acquired, nor did Frank’s talents lie in that direction. His passion for painting turned out better.” And, indeed, in these representations of the Squiredom of England, whether with their hunting cobs in the open, or lounging in groups at Melton Mowbray breakfasts, one feels the superficiality of the man intent on replacing the vanished patrimony, rather than the serious and searching endeavour of the artist.

But that Grant had great talent there is not a doubt, and the wonder is, not that his average work is slight and his personages somewhat dandified, but that his faculty was not more seriously affected by so extraordinary an environment. As often happens in such cases, it is in his less important works that he reveals himself as a painter. His name first appears in the catalogue of the Royal Institution in 1829, his contributions consisting of several portraits of ladies and one of a Polish Jew. This is, no doubt, the canvas given as his diploma picture and designated Jew Rabbi in the Scottish Academy’s catalogue of their art property. A note is there appended to the effect that, on being shown the picture a few years before his death, Sir Francis declared that it was his second essay in oil-painting. The handling is laboured and his brush tends to clot, but it is a remarkable performance for a second attempt in the medium. One or two small canvases in the possession of Colonel Gordon Gilmour, at The Inch, better illustrate the artistic equipment and fine perceptions of the young painter. In one, Lady Eleanor Lowther, in a voluminous red habit and curious black hat with projecting front, is seated on her dapple grey. The horse, painted with great spirit, is seen in profile against russet foliage. But it is in the dainty treatment of the head that Grant here shows his measure, for the comely face, seen in three-quarters, is painted with a delightfully sympathetic touch. Though not more than an inch and a quarter from brow to chin, the features of the young sportswoman are rendered with that combined ease and finish which, whatever the scale, mark the master of his craft. There is a singular charm about this fresh countenance with dark curls and arched brows, to which the quaint head-dress and rather ungainly costume add piquancy. Still more interesting is the little upright sketch of two beautiful sisters, the Hon. Mrs. George Anson and the Countess of Chesterfield. Nothing could well be more graceful in arrangement, and, both in the highly-wrought heads and the more loosely-treated costume Grant shows himself an accomplished craftsman. If in the features of the seated girl there is a trace of the miniaturist, it is only a trace. The other face is free from this objection, and the incidence of light on the fair complexion is more artistically rendered. The painting of the right arm, swathed in its film of gauze, and of the hand arranging the cherry-coloured scarf, has all the sympathetic fluency of touch that characterises the true brushman. Various other pictures and sketches at The Inch show Grant in his sporting vein.

In 1831 and 1832 we find him represented at the Scottish Academy by a goodly number of portraits, both male and female. Amongst those of the latter year is the small full length of Scott in his study at Abbotsford, one of the last, if not the last, of the portraits enumerated by Lockhart. It is far from happy, and reflects only too clearly, in jaded figure and listless expression, that which already overshadowed the abode of the author of “Waverley.” In 1838 his contributions include the curious picture now in the nossession of Sir David Baird, Newbyth—The First Meeting of the North Berwick Golf Club—where we have some seven or eight of the original members, with attendant caddies, teeing, holing out, lounging and squatting about the green—even attending to the creature comforts in a manner fitted to scandalise modem exponents of the royal game. The figures are awkwardly grouped, and some of them seem strangely out of scale. Altogether it is more interesting from its subject than pictorially. This year also closes for a lengthened period Grant’s associations with the Scottish Academy. When his name next appears in their catalogue in 1852, it is with the letters R.A. appended. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1842, Academician in 1851, and President on the death of Sir Charles Eastlake in 1866.

Grant’s career in the metropolis became more and more that of the successful portrait-painter. The sporting pictures with which he continued to vary his early contributions to the Royal Academy soon gave place to the more conventional canvases in which the nobility and gentry are delineated on the scale for which they were able, and willing, to pay. The recovery of the lost patrimony—and much more—was soon assured, but it is questionable whether the painter made the most of those qualities with which he was so richly endowed, and which are so charmingly displayed in the little pictures at The Inch. He seems to have worked with great energy and industry, and many notable portraits came from his hand. Our public galleries contain various examples. In the National Portrait Gallery there are some half-dozen, including a finely modelled head of himself; in the Scottish Portrait Gallery there is a portrait of his brother, Sir Hope Grant, as Colonel of the 9th Lancers ; in the Kelvingrove Museum a seated full-length of Sir Andrew Orr, and in the Dundee Albert Institute a full-length of Mr. Francis Mollison. These, with the three-quarter length of Walter Little Gilmour at The Inch, give a sufficient idea of his average work. All show the man of talent, the last-named—which must have been painted during his earlier London period—if not very fine in colour, is broad and simple in treatment; the Dundee picture has better colour, but the tall fashionably attired figure arrests us rather than the personality of the man. The portraits of his brother and of Sir Andrew Orr seem later, the latter certainly. They are painted with a fuller brush, but both lack distinction either of treatment or execution. Indeed, much of Grant’s work is open to this objection. Now and again, in his portraits of ladies, there are exceptions, but one can hardly wonder that, of his contributions to the Paris International, M. Gautier says that they were “ plus apprecie des gens du monde que des artistes.” Of those here considered as successors of Raeburn Grant least reflects his characteristics. This is not to be wondered at. Raeburn was already six years dead before “ young Frank ” took up the profession, and his early removal to London deprived him of what he might have assimilated from the companionship and practice of those more directly affected by the founder of the school. The influence of a fine tradition on men less capable than Grant has already been noted. Had the latter been able to add to his other qualities, the broad and restful management of light which gives distinction to Roderick Gray and Dr. Wardlaw, “ les artistes " as well as “ les gens du monde,” might have been able to assign him a higher place amongst British portrait-painters.

Macnee, on the other hand, was all through life intimately associated with the land of his birth. During his early years we find him devoting what time he had to spare from more prosaic work to portraits of his companions aud fellow students. The pencil drawing of Robert Pollock and the chalk and oil heads of Macculloch —the latter a mere rub in—represent this period. The first-named must be anterior to the autumn of 1827, for the young author of The Course of Time died of consumption on September 15 of that year. The chalk of Macculloch has little to distinguish it from similar essays by other young artists, but in the oil sketch— slight as it is—we already find a facility of hand and a Lawrence-like elegance of setting which bode well for the future. These belong to about 1828. The halflength of the young landscapist at Kelvingrove Museum may be slightly later. Here Macculloch is represented sketching. With wide-open eyes and slightly parted lips he looks eagerly at his subject over a pane} held upright with the left hand. To the ease of the sketch there are here added a precision of touch and a vivid characterisation which shows well the animation of the painter at work.

Like others of the group, Macnee yaries his practice with subject-pictures. Sometimes they are single figures in which the painter indulges in artistic effects like The Bracelet, and The Lady in Grey; or we have the Peasant Girl, The Gipsy Girl with a Bird's Nest, Going to Market, and such like, which permit of a picturesque costume with rustic setting. But essentially he is a painter of portraits. That of his brother academician, J. F. Williams, of date 1836, differs greatly in style from the Macculloch portraits of some eight years previous. Though wanting in some of the graces of the earlier work it is much more powerfully modelled, and shows the artist acquiring a more individual manner. If it tends to monotone, no such allegation can be made concerning the beautiful bust portrait of Miss Macculloch. Here the fresh complexion of the lady who looks us full in the face is rendered with a brilliancy which leaves nothing to be desired. The paint is soft and pulpy in the lights, and the warm shadows of a pronounced light and shade harmonise finely with the yellow hair and umber of the background. The dress, of white silk or satin, is cut low, with a dark opera cloak drawn about the shoujders. This arrangement of fair flesh tones, golden hair, and sheeny fabrics against a ground of deep olive is happy in the extreme, and the work is executed with remarkable gusto and a juicier touch than usual. The middle of the century sees the painter fully matured, and in 1852 and 1853 respectively we have the full-length of Dr. Wardlaw\ and the half-length of Charles Mackay as Nicol Jarvie.

Taken all over the former must be pronounced Macnee’s masterpiece. It will always hold a foremost place amongst Scottish portraits, and a high position in European portraiture of its century. Like Watson Gordon’s Provost of Peterhead, and Graham Gilbert’s portraits of his brother artists, it combines happily the characteristic excellences of the painter, both as craftsman and as interpreter of the personality of his subject. For we have here the living presentment of one of those finer types, not too numerous amongst Scottish churchmen, large minded, placid, cultured, who have acted as a leaven on the fiery and often narrow zeal of their brethren. The venerable doctor is seated in easy posture, one elbow rests on an open Bible by his side, and with the right hand he fingers loosely a pair of gold-rimmed spectacles. The rugged cast of features is softened by the refining influences of learning and a life devoted to his mission. The forehead, bald above, is expansive, the hair silver grey, and the eyes, which look kindly on us from under bushy brows, are deep set. The means employed are of the simplest. The dark breadth of the clerical garb is treated in a manner which recalls Raeburn and Watson Gordon. Fine in surface and grateful in tone this central dark passes into a background airy and spacious, to which the dull reds of table-cover and carpet and the old gold of a heavy curtain impart a subdued sumptuousness. All this seems to enhance, it is hard to say how, the quiet dignity of the seated divine. The sobriety of the arrangement is quickened by the white of front and neckcloth, which also serves to give tone to a rather bloodless complexion.

Mackay, the actor, as Nicol Jarvie, might be set down, were it not for the evidence of the catalogue, as anterior to Dr. Wardlaw. The early eighteenth-century costume is, no doubt, responsible for this, and it is difficult to shake off the impression. It is the actor in the dress rather than in the character of Nicol Jamie. Mackay was at this time approaching three score and ten, and could hardly personate the famous Bailie—off the stage, at least —as he had done a generation earlier. This is all too evident, for neither brown wig nor close-shaven underfeatures can conceal the fact that the person here represented would be quite incapable of the Bailie’s warlike feats or of surviving the misadventure that befell on the wooded shore of Loch Ard. When facing the canvas one thinks rather of the Deacon so often referred to in the conversation of the valiant Glaswegian. But these are defects for which Macnee can scarcely be held responsible. It is no less the work of a master than that of the previous year. The actor, in maroon-coloured coat and vest, with laced cravat, faces us at a slight angle with right hand thrust into the breast of his waistcoat. The ruddy tones and the dark background give value to the face, almost in full light, which combines with the white scarf to complete a scheme exceedingly simple in its elements. A few accents, dark and light, are supplied by the markings of the dress, the shadow of the cravat, and the glint of brass buttons, and again in the dark grey eyes, the well-marked brows, and the shadow under the nose. Yet by the subtle combination and blending of these few tones and markings, there is preserved for us a personality far different from, but no less interesting than, that of Dr. Wardlaw. In these homely yet sensitive features, touched with the pathos of advancing years, the artist has conveyed to us a something not only of the pawky humour that so delighted our grandfathers, but of the tenderness—the sadness even—which not unfrequently accompanies the faculty of providing amusement for the multitude.

Twelve or fifteen years later the Lady in Grey shows that Macnee has lost none of his talent. This picture belongs to the class of which Nelly O’Brien, or perhaps the Chapeau de Paille is the prototype—only here tjiere is no chapeau. But the breadth of shadow, the cool reflections, and the more direct sunlight which touches the cheek and dapplesi1 face and figure, are sufficent to associate it, in a general way, with the masterpieces of Reynolds and Rubens. The Scottish portrait has neither the picturesque costume nor the rich colour-scheme of the earlier works, and that its author has invested the smooth-braided hair and the expansive skirts of the crinoline period with much of the interest that attaches to its precursors, is due to the glamour of an effect which rarely fails in the hands of a competent craftsman. Here it certainly lends an additional charm to the girl whose sober attire is varied only by the narrow white collar and black bow at the throat, and who raises her eyes for a moment from the seam on her lap to look us full in the face. A leafy screen through which the sunlight filters on walk and lawn furnishes an appropriate background.

For another decade Sir Daniel—he received the honour of knightboud shortly after being elected President of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1876—kept his powers in full vigour and sustained his reputation by the production of many fine works. The portrait of Robert Dalgleish, M.P., at the Kelvingrove Museum, painted in 1874, shows little falling away from the works of his prime. Sir Daniel died in 1882, the last survivor of those here called successors of Raeburn.

None of them take equal rank with the founder of the school, but three of the group may be said, by the addition of individual qualities, to have widened the scope of native portraiture. If a selection of the more notable works of Watson Gordon, Graham Gilbert, and Macnee were aligned with an equal number of representative Raeburns, though the former would suffer by contact with Sir Henry’s masterly technique—the brilliant ensemble that takes one by storm—there would nevertheless be found an advance in that intimacy of observation and characterisation which is a dominant note in the best portrait work of recent times. For Raeburn carried to the verge of a defect the simplification that sacrifices detail to breadth, and it is difficult to get rid of the impression, in presence even of his masterpieces, that this is a convention applied to a face rather than the countenance, as our modem eyes would have seen it. The convention is a noble one, it is true, and one which rarely fails to embody the leading characteristics of his sitter; but one misses those more tender and personal traits which also go to the making of a personality, and constitute much of its attractiveness. In these directions the interpretation is carried a stage further, is more sympathetic, as one might say, in such portraits as the Provost of Peterhead and Charles Mackay than with the earlier painter. There is something gained in technique also, for this more sympathetic insight demands its analogue in touch and handling. For no more in portraiture than in the genre of Wilkie can these finer shades of expression be attained unless through a perfect unison and correspondence between the organ which perceives and that which executes. There is nothing more delightful in the work of Watson Gordon than the way his brush conforms itself to this keener perception of more intimate detail and the incidences of light which express it. And both the John Gibson and the Charles Mackay of the other two painters, if compared with the brilliant work of Raebum in the same rooms, reveal a something of closer analysis— of verisimilitude—expressed through a handling more complex, though still free and artistic. To those who know French portraiture and the leathery epidermis with which Scheffer and Ingres and Delaroche credited their sitters, when they condescended to that branch of art, it is not surprising that at the Paris International the Scotsmen held a prominent place or that Gautier wrote of them as he did.


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