Open main menu


MACKENZIE, SAMUEL (1785–1847), portrait-painter, was born in the parish of Kilmuir, Ross-shire, in 1786 (information from his son), and he is probably the child (name omitted) of William Mackenzie, fisherman in Portlich, Ross-shire, and Ann Mackenzie his spouse, whose birth on 28 Dec. and baptism 31 Dec. 1786 are recorded in the Kilmuir parish register. His father died before he had attained the age of eight, and he became a herd-boy in the service of an uncle. He also worked in the north, under Telford, as a superintendent of stone-hewers. To avoid the press-gang he came on foot to Edinburgh, where he was employed by Dalziel, a marble-cutter in Leith Walk. The arms over the entrance of the Bank of Scotland and the sphinxes in Charlotte Square were carved by him and John Marshall. Deeply impressed by the paintings of Raeburn, he began, at the age of about twenty-five, to study as a portrait-painter. His productions gained for him Raeburn's friendship, and he worked in Raeburn's studio. In 1812, when he was residing in Shakespeare Square, he contributed a portrait of a gentleman to the Exhibition of Associated Artists, Edinburgh, and he continued to contribute to the same exhibitions from 1814 to 1816. He was much employed by George Gordon, fifth duke of Gordon [q. v.], and James Innes Ker, fifth duke of Koxburghe [q. v.], and for a time visited the north annually to paint portraits. In 1821 his full-length of the Duchess of Roxburghe and the Marquis of Bowmont appeared in the first modern exhibition of the Royal Institution, Edinburgh ; and his contributions there from 1826 to 1829 included the group of Mrs. Burns, widow of the poet, and her granddaughter, engraved by William Holl [q. v.] in 'The Land of Burns.' He also painted Lord Brougham. Mackenzie was one of the twenty-four artists who in 1829 were admitted members of the Scottish Academy (Harvey, Notes on the Royal Scottish Academy), which obtained its royal charter in 1838, and, with the single exception of 1842, he contributed to every exhibition of that body till 1846, showing mainly portraits. In 1830 he exhibited a portrait of James Silk Buckingham [q. v.] He also exhibited a few genre subjects, such as 'The Beggar Girl,' 1839, and 'The Sailor's Orphan Boy,' 1841. He was considered especially successful in his female portraits, and he painted some fancy heads, several of which have been engraved. Examples of his art are at Floors and Gordon Castles, and in the possession of the Royal Scottish Academy. He was a man of considerable culture, and a good mathematician. He was particularly interested in horology, and constructed sundials for every latitude. Of kindly character, he was especially helpful to young artists. Mackenzie painted the portrait of the Rev. Dr. David Dickson (1780-1842) [q. v.], and modelled the head in Alexander Handyside Ritchie's monument to Dickson in St. Cuthbert's burying-ground, Edinburgh. He died in Edinburgh, 23 Jan. 1847, and was buried in the Warriston cemetery.

[Information from the family; Redgrave's Dict.; Catalogues of Royal Scottish Academy and of their Loan Exhibition of 1880, and of Exhibitions referred to above ; Scots Mag. 1892.]

J. M. G.