Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Fyfe, William Baxter Collier

FYFE, WILLIAM BAXTER COLLIER (1836?–1882), painter, was born at Dundee about 1836, and brought up in the neighbouring village of Carnoustie. Although the Scottish prejudices of his father's household were unpropitious to art, friends enabled him to become a student of the Royal Scottish Academy when only fifteen. Here his crayon portraits won prizes, and were highly praised. He afterwards studied at Paris during parts of 1857 and 1858. His first picture of importance, ‘Queen Mary resigning her Crown at Loch Leven Castle,’ appeared at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1861. In 1863, after having passed a year among the art treasures of France, Italy, and Belgium, he settled in London and devoted much of his time to portraiture, which he varied with landscapes and fancy subjects, but his summers were often spent in Scotland. His pictures of ‘The Death of John Brown of Priesthill’ and ‘Jeanie Deans and the Laird o' Dumbiedykes’ attracted much notice, and in 1866 he began to exhibit at the Royal Academy. In 1868 and 1869 he painted ‘The Wood Merchant,’ ‘The “Scotsman,” Sir?’ ‘The Flower Girl,’ ‘The Orange Girl,’ ‘Marketing,’ and ‘A Girl of the Period,’ the last of which became very popular. These were followed during the next four years by ‘The Young Cavalier,’ ‘The Page,’ ‘On Household Cares intent,’ ‘The Maid of Honour,’ ‘Bide a wee,’ and ‘What can a young Lassie dae wi' an auld Man?’ several of which were engraved in the illustrated newspapers of Europe and America, and even of Asia. About 1874 Fyfe again visited Italy, and painted several Italian subjects. His best-known works of later date were ‘A Good Catholic,’ ‘Wandering Minstrels,’ ‘The Love Letter,’ ‘A Quiet Christmas,’ ‘The Fisherman's Daughter,’ ‘A Chelsea Pensioner,’ and ‘The Raid of Ruthven,’ his most important historical picture, which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1878, and afterwards at the Royal Scottish Academy. His last works were ‘Hide and Seek,’ ‘A Fisher Girl,’ and ‘Nellie.’ Among his portraits some of the most important were those of the Earl and Countess of Dufferin, Lord Houghton, Sir David and Lady Baxter, Alderman Sir William m'Arthur, and Dr. Lorimer, first principal of the London Presbyterian College. His own portrait was one of his latest works.

Fyfe died suddenly at Abbey Road, St. John's Wood, London, on 15 Sept. 1882, in the forty-seventh year of his age, and was buried in Willesden cemetery.

{{smaller block[Times, 18 Sept. 1882; Architect, 23 Sept. 1882; Illustrated London News, 30 Sept. 1882, with portrait; Royal Academy Exhibition Catalogues, 1866–82.]}}

R. E. G.