Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Reid, Alexander (1747-1823)

655086Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 47 — Reid, Alexander (1747-1823)1896Campbell Dodgson

REID, ALEXANDER (1747–1823), painter, second son of John Reid of Kirkeenan, near Dalbeattie, Kirkcudbrightshire, was born in 1747. He exhibited a portrait of Mr. Ochterlony at the gallery of the Society of Artists in 1770. After spending some time in Paris before the revolution, he appears to have had a studio at Dumfries about the end of the last century. He painted miniatures, oil portraits, and landscapes, some of which have been engraved. His name is best known in connection with a miniature of Robert Burns, which he painted at Dumfries in 1796. Allan Cunningham, in his life of Raeburn (Lives, v. 215), speaks of ‘Read, a wandering limner, who found his way on a time to Dumfries, where he painted the heads of Burns and his Jean on ivory.’ Burns wrote to Mrs. W. Riddell from Dumfries on 29 Jan. 1796: ‘I am just sitting to Reid in this town for a miniature, and I think he has hit by far the best likeness of me ever taken. When you are at any time so idle in town as to call at Reid's painting-room, and mention to him that I spoke of such a thing to you, he will shew it to you, else he will not; for both the miniature's existence and its destiny are an inviolable secret’ (Burns, Works, ed. W. Douglas, 1879, vi. 181). All trace of this portrait has been lost, but of a number of miniatures asserted to be the authentic portrait of Burns by Reid, that bequeathed by W. F. Watson to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, has by far the strongest claim. Reid's work is not very accomplished, but he was painstaking and accurate, and his colour is not unpleasing. On the death of his elder brother in 1804 he succeeded to the estate, and settled there. He died unmarried in 1823. A portrait of him, by an unknown artist, passed to the possession of his great-nephew, Mr. G. Corson, architect, Leeds.

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