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The Scottish Nation

AIKMAN, a surname, being the same as Oakman. An oak tree was carried in the arms of persons of this surname, and the family of Aikman of Cairney had for crest an oak tree proper.

AIKMAN, WILLLIAM, an eminent painter, the son of William Aikman of Cairney, advocate, by Margaret, third sister of Sir John Clerk, of Pennycuik, Baronet, was born 24th October 1682. He was intended by his father for the law, but the bent of his own mind early led him to painting as a profession. In 1707, after selling off his paternal estate, he went to Rome, where he spent three years in studying the great masters, and returned to his native country in 1712, having also visited Constantinople and Smyrna. At first his manner was cold, but it afterwards became soft and easy. He was particularly happy in giving graceful airs and genteel likenesses to the ladies whose portraits he painted. In 1723, being patronized by John, duke of Argyle, he was induced to settle as a portrait-painter in London, where he further improved his colouring by the study of Sir Godfrey Kneller’s works.

      His taste and genius introduced him to the acquaintance and friendship of the duke of Devonshire, the earl of Burlington, Sir Robert Walpole, Sir Godfrey Kneller, and others. For the earl of Burlington, he painted a large picture of the royal family, which his deaths prevented him from finishing. It is now in possession of the duke of Devonshire. Aikman married Marion, daughter of Mr. Lawson of Cairnmuir, county of Peebles, by whom he had an only son, John. He died 4th June, O. S. 1731, in his 49th year. His remains, with those of his son, who predeceased him about six months, were removed to Edinburgh, and interred together in the Greyfriars’ church- -yard. An epitaph, by his friend Mallet the poet, was inscribed on his tomb. Several of his portraits are in the possession of the dukes of Hamilton, Argyle, Devonshire, and others. He numbered among his friends Allan Ramsay, who wrote a pastoral farewell to him on his departure for London, Somerville, the author of the Chase, and Thomson, the author of the Seasons, who, as well as his friend Mallet, wrote elegiac verses on his death. Mallet’s epitaph has been long effaced. Thomson’s poem on his death closes with the following lines:

"A friend, when dead, is but remov’d from sight,
Sunk in the lustre of eternal night;
And when the parting storms of life are o’er,
May yet rejoin us on a happier shore.
As those we love decay, we die in part,
String after string is severed from the heart,
Till loosen’d life, at last but breathing clay,
Without one pang is glad to fall away.
Unhappy he who latest feels the blow
Whose eyes have wept o’er every friend laid low;
Dragg’d ling’ring on from partial death to death,
Till dying, all he can resign is breath."

      Aikman was also intimate with Pope, Swift, Arbuthnot, Gay, and most of the wits of Queen Anne’s days. His style bears a close resemblance to that of Kneller. In the duke of Tuscany’s collection of the portraits of painters done by their own hands, will be found that of Aikman, in the ducal gallery at Florence.—Cunningham's Lives of Painters.

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