Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Skirving, Archibald

SKIRVING, ARCHIBALD (1749–1819), painter, son of Adam Skirving [q. v.], author of ‘Johnnie Cope,’ was born near Haddington in 1749. After studying both in Rome and London, he settled in Edinburgh, where he obtained some fame as a portrait-painter. His most successful portraits were executed in crayon. The best known is his crayon portrait of Robert Burns, executed partly from Nasmyth's famous portrait, and partly from Skirving's recollection of the poet, whom he met, it is said, at Edinburgh in 1786. This portrait was acquired by Sir Theodore Martin. Other of Skirving's sitters were Alexander Carlyle, D.D., of Inveresk, the mother of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Gavin Hamilton, Isabella Fraser-Tytler, Professor Dugald Stewart, and Dr. John Hunter, principal of St. Andrews University. Skirving was eccentric, and did not pursue his art industriously. In later life he seldom produced more than one picture a year, his price ranging about one hundred guineas. He died suddenly at Inveresk in 1819, and was buried at Athelstaneford churchyard. Some of his portraits are in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

[Brydall's Art in Scotland, p. 169; Catalogue of Royal Scot. Acad. Exhibition, 1880; Cat. of Loan Exhibition of Old Masters and Portraits, 1883; Cat. of Scot. Nat. Portrait Gallery, 1891; Burns Chron. for 1892.]

A. H. M.