Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Drummond, James (1816-1877)

DRUMMOND, JAMES (1816–1877), subject and history painter, born in 1816, was the son of an Edinburgh merchant, noted for his knowledge of the historical associations of the Old Town. On leaving school he entered the employment of Captain Brown, the author of works on ornithology and cognate subjects, as a draughtsman and colourist. He did not, however, remain long in that situation, and found more congenial work in the teaching of drawing, on giving up which he became a student in the School of Design, under Sir William Allan [q. v.] He was eighteen years of age when he first exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy; the subject was ‘Waiting for an Answer.’ In the following year's exhibition Drummond was represented by ‘The Love Letter,’ and in 1837 by ‘The Vacant Chair.’ He was enrolled as an associate of the academy in 1846, and was elected an academician in 1852. In 1857 he was chosen librarian of the academy, and in the following year, along with Sir Noel Paton and Mr. James Archer, was entrusted with the task of preparing a report upon the best mode of conducting the life school of the academy. This report was presented to the council in November of the same year, and met with unanimous approval. On the death of W. B. Johnstone, R.S.A., in 1868, Drummond was appointed to the office of curator of the National Gallery. From an early period of his life he devoted himself closely to the study of historical art; his treatment of such subjects was distinguished no less by imaginative grasp and power than by the care with which he elaborated the archæological details. Among his large pictures of an historical nature are ‘The Porteous Mob’ (which was purchased and engraved by the Association for the Promotion of the Fine Arts in Scotland, and now hangs in the National Gallery of Scotland), ‘Montrose on his way to Execution,’ ‘The Covenanters in Greyfriars churchyard,’ ‘Old Mortality,’ ‘John Knox bringing Home his Second Wife,’ ‘Peace,’ and ‘War.’ The last two pictures were exhibited in the Royal Academy of London, and were purchased by the prince consort. ‘War’ was engraved for the ‘Art Journal.’ Drummond also painted numerous minor works of a similar type, some of which were illustrative of such incidents as Sir Walter Scott at an old bookstall, and James VI on a visit to George Heriot's shop. For Lady Burdett-Coutts he painted the view of Edinburgh castle from the window of her ladyship's sitting-room in the Palace Hotel, with portraits of the baroness and her friend Mrs. Brown. He was one of the most active members of the Royal Scottish Society of Antiquaries, member of the council, and curator of the museum. At the meetings of the society he read numerous papers, which were generally illustrated. He died in Edinburgh on 12 Aug. 1877.

[Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Art Journal, 1877, p. 336.]

L. F.