Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Willison, George

1048838Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 62 — Willison, George1900James Lewis Caw

WILLISON, GEORGE (1741–1797), portrait-painter, born in 1741, was a son of David Willison, an Edinburgh printer and publisher, and a grandson of John Willison [q. v.] In 1756 he was awarded a prize for a drawing of flowers by the Edinburgh Society for the Encouragement of the Arts and Sciences, and in the two following years his name again figures in the prize-list. After this his uncle, George Dempster [q. v.] of Dunnichen, sent him to Rome to continue his studies, and on his return he settled in London, where, between 1767 and 1777, he exhibited some six-and-twenty portraits at the Royal Academy. But meeting with little encouragement, he went to India and painted many portraits, including those of some native princes, one of which (that of the nabob of Arcot) is now at Hampton Court. He possessed a certain knowledge of medicine, and cured a wealthy person of a dangerous wound of long standing, in gratitude for which he had some time afterwards a considerable fortune bequeathed to him. Then he returned to Edinburgh, where he continued to paint, and where he died in April 1797. His pictures are pleasant in colour and rather graceful in arrangement, his characterisation fair, his handling easy if somewhat thin. A number of his portraits were engraved by Valentine Green and James Watson.

A medallion portrait of Willison (dated 1792) by Guillame is in the Scottish Portrait Gallery.

[Scots Magazine, 1755–8; Millar's Eminent Burgesses of Dundee, 1887; Cat. Scottish National Portrait Gallery; Ernest Law's Hampton Court; Redgrave's, Bryan's, and Graves's Dictionaries.]

J. L. C.