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The Scottish Nation

MARTIN, DAVID, an eminent artist, the principal portrait painter in Edinburgh of his day, was born in Scotland, and studied under Allan Ramsay, the celebrated painter, the son of the poet, whom he accompanied to Rome, but at a time when he was too young to receive much advantage from the visit. On his return to England, he attended the drawing academy in St. Martin’s Lane, London, and obtained some premiums for drawings after life. He subsequently practiced both as a painter and an engraver, and also scraped some portraits in mezzotinto. In the latter department he finished a very good print of Roubilliac the sculptor. Among his engraved portraits there is a whole length of Lord Bath, from the original picture which he painted of his lordship; also, a whole length of Lord Mansfield, from another of his own pictures. His best portrait is a half length of Dr. Franklin, said to be the truest likeness of that remarkable person, from which a mezzotinto print was published in 1775. Mr. Martin married a lady of some fortune, and lived for some years in Dean Street, Soho, but after her death, which was very sudden, he went to reside at Edinburgh. (Edwards’ Anecdotes of Painting).

The Surgeon’s Hall, Advocates’ Library, and Heriot’s Hospital, of that city, possess many fine portraits by Martin, of the most eminent men of his time, in the several departments of physic, law, and philosophy. After succeeding his brother, a General Martin, he lived principally at No. 4, St. James’ Square, Edinburgh, where he died 13th December 1797. Some time previous to his death he had been appointed limner to his royal highness the prince of Wales. According to his obituary notice in the local papers, he was “very extensively known, not only in his own but in other countries, for his eminence in his profession, his knowledge of, and exquisite taste in, the fine arts, in general. He will long be remembered and much regretted by his numerous acquaintances, but more particularly by his friends, not more for his genius and taste than for his generosity and spirit, warmth of heart and other amiable qualities.” So little was this flattering notice realized that, within sixty years of his death, he was so absolutely forgotten in the city in which he lived and died, that, with the exception of an old artist or two, who had known him in their youth, and his own descendants, few had ever heard of his existence, and scarcely any knew that he was a Scotsman. His reputation was completely eclipsed by the more brilliant talent of Sir Henry Raeburn (see RAEBURN, Sir Henry), who had his attention first directed by David Martin from miniature to the more powerful and facile process of oil painting, in which he gave him some instructions and advice in a friendly way, although, not being a pupil of his, he refused to show him how to prepare his colours. The identity of style of the early works of Raeburn with those of Martin, is very remarkable, and the difference of the two masters only begins as Raeburn became more confirmed in that style in which he ultimately distinguished himself, and which became so peculiarly his own.

The following is a list of most of the plates which Martin engraved: La Muchela Gabriela, after P. Bottoni; Lady Frances Manners; Earl of Mansfield; David Hume; Rosseau; The Earl of Bath; Roubilliac; a portrait of Rembrandt; Professor Fergusson; Summer Evening, after Cuyp; and the Ruins of ancient Bath, after Gasper Poussin.

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