The most prominent
portrait painter of his day, Henry Raeburn was born in the
Stockbridge area of Edinburgh on 4 March 1756. He lost his father,
a mill owner, at an early age, was raised by an older brother, and
educated at Heriot's Hospital. In 1772 he was apprenticed to the
jeweler James Gilliland but began painting water-color miniatures
of his friends. He soon attracted the attention of the city's
leading portraitist, David Martin. With guidance from Martin,
Raeburn turned to painting in oil and began to develop his personal
style. In 1778, he married a wealthy widow of independent means,
whose dowry permitted him to devote himself entirely to painting.
Through the marriage, he also acquired the Deanhaugh Estate in
Stockbridge. He was later to purchase the neighboring St. Bernard's
estate and to amass a considerable fortune by feuing both for
building the Stockbridge extension of Edinburgh's New Town.
he traveled to London where he met Sir Joshua Reynolds whose style
was to exert a great influence upon him. On Reynolds's advice, he
spent the following two years studying in Italy. Raeburn returned
to Edinburgh in 1787, set up a studio in George Street, and rapidly
established himself as the leading portraitist of Edinburgh
society. He was to paint many of the most prominent Scots of the
days, gradually developing from bust-sized figures to full length
portraits. His reputation spread beyond Edinburgh and he became a
member of the Royal Academy in 1815. He was knighted by King George
IV during his visit to Scotland in 1822 and, shortly before his
death in 1823, was appointed His Majesty's Limner for Scotland.
Alongside Sir David Wilkie, Raeburn is considered the founder of
the ‘Scottish School’ of painting.
over 700 portraits, including four of Sir Walter Scott in 1808,
1809, and 1823 (twice). Amongst Raeburn's other most celebrated
likenesses are those of Mrs James Campbell, Sir John Sinclair, Lord
Newton, and Alexander Adam. Today he is perhaps best-known for his
much reproduced image of The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on
Duddingston Loch (see image below).