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Allan Ramsay (1713-1784) Scottish Portrait Painter

Allan Ramsay was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, the eldest son of Allan Ramsay (1686-1758),an important Scottish poet of his day, and also playwright, publisher, librarian and wig-maker.
He studied in London under Hans Hysing, and at the St. Martin's Lane Academy. He then worked for three years in Rome and Naples. Ramsay made an astonishing progress during his two years away, when he came into contact with Imperiali and the young Batoni in Rome and worked under Solimena in Naples.
Upon his return, Ramsay setled in Edinburgh, where his talent was recognized - his full-length portrait of the Duke of Argyll was later used on Royal Bank of Scotland banknotes. Also his father was able to use his social connections to advance Ramsay's career.

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of Queen Charlotte 1761-62

Ramsay moves then to London where he was employed by the Duke of Bridgewater.
With a good classical education behind him, excellent manners and taste in dress, the young Ramsay became popular. Besides, the Act of Union (1707), which brought the great Scottish magnates to London and to position of influence, benefited his career significantly. One of the most influential Scotsmen in London Lord Bute, who was a nephew of Ramsay's earlier patrons the Dukes of Argyll, proved to be a loyal supporter to the artist and secured patronage for Ramsay which eventually blossomed on a scale unknown since Van Dyck.

 Allan Ramsay - Richard Grenville, 2nd Earl Temple  1762

Ramsay executed Lord Bute's particularly fortunate full length portrat and many commissions followed. The artist was also largely employed in decoration, an industry which involved an army of assistants.
According to Dr. Alexander Cunningham, Edinburgh physician, even 'before he had the luck to become a favourite with the king, he was perfectly independent as to fortune, having, in one way or another, accumulated not less that forty thousand pounds, a sum which almost justified the jeremiads of Hogarth over the popularity of face-painting. What is perhaps more remarkable, however, is that he was not only highly in request as a portrait painter, but ws even preferred to Reynolds. It was the opinion of Walpole, for instance, that Ramsay excelled Reynolds as a painter of women. "Mr. Reynolds seldom succeeds in women; Mr. Ramsay is formed to paint them" (Letter to Dalrymple, 25 Feb.1758).

 Allan Ramsay - Self Portrait
With the accession of George III his favour with the court increased, and in 1767 he succeeded John Shackleton as portrait painter to his majesty, an appointment with had the effect of turning his studio into a manufactory of presentments of royal and official personages, in which little but the head (and often not even that) was executed by himself. The king's inveterate habit of giving away elaborate full-lengths of himself and Queen Charlotte kept him constantly employed.
(Dictionary of national biography, Volume 47 By Sir Leslie Stephen, Sir Sidney Lee)

As soon as he was finacially secure, Ramsay bought an estate and acquired the status of gentleman. He married well, twice. His first wife, Anne Bayne, was the daughter of a professor of Scots law at Edinburgh, Alexander Bayne of Rires. She soon died, giving birth to their third child; none of their 3 children survived childhood.

 Allan Ramsay - Portrait of Lady Susanna Cambell c1740

In 1752, he married his student Margaret Lindsay, they had three children together and long and happy marriage, although Margaret's father, Sir Alexander Lindsay of Evelick, never forgave her for marrying an artist.(In his letter Ramsay's prospective son-in-law makes it clear that Amelia Ramsay's suitability has less to do with her father's position as court painter to George III, than her kinship with the noble Lindsays (on her mother's side) and the dowry of 4,000.)
By 1770, Rramsay gave up painting due to an accident (he was showing his household how to escape in case of fire, when he fell and dislocated his arm).
In 1782 his second wife died. Ramsay left for Italy where he lingered several years; he returned to England home sick and died in 1784.

Allan Ramsay - Queen Charlotte 1762-64

A man of considerable culture, an excellent linguist and scholar, Ramsay was distinguished for his amenity, his knowledge of the world, and his social charm. 'You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance than in Ramsay's' (Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)).

Allan Ramsay - Queen Charlotte with Two Children c. 1765

Augusta Of Saxe-Gotha (1780) StudioRamsay

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of Augusta of Saxe-Gotha as Dowager Princess of Wales, 1759

Allan Ramsay - Martha Baker, 1739

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of Mrs Cambell; née Susan Erskine of Menzies

Sir Edward And Lady Turner by Allan Ramsay, 1740

Allan Ramsay - Anne Bayne, Wife of the Artist 1739

Allan Ramsay - Mrs Allan Ramsay in Red Dress, 1760-65

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of George III. 1760-61

Portrait of John Prideaux Basset (1740-1756)

Allan Ramsay - Jean Abercromby, Mrs Morison of Haddo 1767

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of Margaret Lindsay, Mrs. Allan Ramsey c1757

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of William Colyear, Viscount Milsington 1764

Allan Ramsay - Elizabeth Cunyngham, Mrs Daniel Cunyngham c1740

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of Lady Jane Douglas, full-length, as a shepherdess seated in a landscape

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of David Hume 1766

Allan Ramsay - Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1766

Allan Ramsay - Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford c.1759

Allan Ramsay - General James Murray, Governor of Québec and Minorca 1742

Allan Ramsay - Girl with Parrott 1744

Allan Ramsay - Prince George Augustus of Mecklenburg-Strelitz c 1769

Allan Ramsay - Miss Craigie

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of George III of the United Kingdom, 1762

Allan Ramsay - John Campbell, 4th Earl of Loudoun 1750

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of a Lady, probably Henrietta, Lady Napier (d. 1745)

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of a lady, probably Mrs. Kitty Clive, detail

Allan ramsay - Portrait of Lady Susan Fox-Strangways (1742-1827)

Allan Ramsay - Portrait of Miss Christian Campbel


  1. Wonderful faces! And I was just hunting for some splendid silks; thanks:)

  2. Thanks for share!
    Wonderful blog!
    Luis, from México

  3. Thank you all for the feedbacks, it's sincerely appreciated!

  4. Interesting that John Shackleton was portrait painter to His Maj, at least until Allan Ramsay came along. Poor old Shackleton seems to have pretty much faded from art history, whereas Ramsay's star has not dimmed at all.

    In fact looking at women like Mrs Morison of Haddo, Mrs Allan Ramsay and Queen Charlotte, Ramsay certainly had a magic touch with women's portraits and women's clothes. Dr Cunningham was spot on.

  5. belíssimo o blog .
    fico aqui encantada apreciando.

  6. Thie is the be-all and end-all of all art blogs.

    Dr. Jordan Paul Richman
    Johnsonian scholar


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