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Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 47.djvu/163

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in George Street painted better before he went to Rome.' Martin did not resign his supremacy without a struggle, but his cold conventionalities had little chance against Raeburn's vital and vigorous art, and he had at last to abandon the field to the younger man.

On the death of his brother William in 1788, Raeburn succeeded to the house and property of St. Bernard's at Stockbridge, and thither he moved with his family when about thirty-two. The planning of the new town of Edinburgh suggested the turning to account of some fields in the northern part of his property for a building speculation. They were laid out with houses and gardens, and proved a very successful venture, adding considerably to his income. His studio in George Street was now too small for his increasing circle of clients, and he built himself a large gallery and painting-room in York Place. It is still known as Raeburn House. In the gallery he hung his pictures as they were completed, admitting the public freely to see them.

Raeburn's career of some thirty years as a fashionable portrait-painter was one of unbroken professional and social success. His fine presence, genial manners, shrewd sense, and great conversational powers made him a welcome guest in the brilliant society of his day. A complete collection of his works would make a Scottish national portrait gallery of ideal quality—'a whole army of wise, grave, humorous, capable, or beautiful countenances, painted simply and strongly by a man of genuine instinct.' Robertson, Hume, Monboddo, Boswell, Adam Smith, Braxfield, Christopher North, Lord Newton, Dugald Stewart, John Erskine, Jeffrey, and Walter Scott were of the company, to name but the more famous. Burns is almost the only notable absentee from the roll of his sitters.

Raeburn was in love with his daily task. He used to declare portrait-painting to be the most delightful thing in the world, for every one, he said, came to him in the happiest of moods and with the pleasantest of faces. It is significant, too, of the generous temper he showed to his brother-artists that he described his profession as one that leads neither to discords nor disputes. Of his habits Allan Cunningham gives an interesting account: 'The movements of the artist were as regular as those of a clock. He rose at seven during summer, took breakfast about eight with his wife and children, walked into George Street, and was ready for a sitter by nine; and of sitters he generally had for many years not fewer than three or four a day. To these he gave an hour and a half each. He seldom kept a sitter more than two hours, unless the person happened—and that was often the case—to be gifted with more than common talents. He then felt himself happy, and never failed to detain the one client till the arrival of another intimated that he must be gone. For a head size he generally required four or five sittings; and he preferred painting the head and hands to any other part of the body, assigning as a reason that they required least consideration. A fold of drapery or the natural ease which the casting of a mantle over the shoulder demanded occasioned him more perplexing study than a head full of thought and imagination. Such was the intuition with which he penetrated at once to the mind that the first sitting rarely came to a close without his having seized strongly on the character and disposition of the individual. He never drew in his heads, or indeed any part of the body, with chalk—a system pursued successfully by Lawrence—but began with the brush at once. The forehead, chin, nose, and mouth were his first touches. He always painted standing, and never used a stick for resting his hand on; for such was his accurateness of eye and steadiness of nerve that he could introduce the most delicate touches, or the most mechanical regularity of line, without aid or other contrivance than fair, off-hand dexterity. He remained in his painting-room till a little after five o'clock, when he walked home, and dined at six.' The picture is well completed by Scott's description: 'His manly stride backwards, as he went to contemplate his work at a proper distance, and, when resolved on the necessary point to be touched, his step forward, were magnificent. I see him in my mind's eye, with his hand under his chin, contemplating his picture, which position always brought me in mind of a figure of Jupiter which I have somewhere seen.' It is the attitude in which the artist has painted his own portrait.

Fully occupied in his native city, Raeburn had little time for visits to London. He is said to have paid only three short visits to the capital. An entry in Wilkie's 'Diary' for 12 May 1810 shows, however, that on one of these occasions he came up with an idea of settling. Sir Thomas Lawrence strongly advised him against such a course, and he wisely remained where his position was assured. He was very courteously received by his brother-artists in London, and Wilkie describes an academy dinner where Raeburn 'was asked by Sir William Beechey [q. v.] to sit near the president; his health was proposed by Flaxman, and great attention was paid him.'