Smith, Colvin (DNB00)

SMITH, COLVIN (1795–1875), portrait-painter and royal Scottish academician, born at Brechin in Scotland in 1795, was son of John Smith, merchant, manufacturer, and magistrate of Brechin, a descendant of the family of Lindsay, alias Smith, heritable armourers to the bishop of Brechin. His mother was Cecilia, daughter of Richard Gillies of Little Keithock, Forfarshire, and sister of Adam, lord Gillies [q. v.], and John Gillies (1747–1836) [q. v.] When young, Smith went to London and became a student in the schools of the Royal Academy, and also studied under Joseph Nollekens [q. v.] He then travelled abroad, and studied the works of the old masters, making friends at Rome with Sir David Wilkie [q. v.], whose portrait he painted. On his return he settled about 1826 in Edinburgh, where he purchased the studio and gallery in York Place which had been erected by Sir Henry Raeburn [q. v.] His powerful family connections quickly gained him employment at Edinburgh, and many of the most prominent personages in that city sat to him. He first appears as an exhibitor at the Royal Institution, Edinburgh, in 1826, 1828, and 1829, but subsequently, along with twelve other artist members of the institution, he transferred his interests to the (Royal) Scottish Academy, where he continued to exhibit during the remainder of his life. Colvin Smith is best known for his portraits of Sir Walter Scott, the first of which was painted in 1828 for Lord-chief-commissioner William Adam [q. v.] This was considered so successful that several of Scott's friends had replicas painted for them, about twenty in all, for some of which Scott gave separate sittings to please his friends. Among other notable people painted by Smith were Lord Jeffrey (considered the best likeness of him), Henry Mackenzie, Sir James Mackintosh, Robert, second viscount Melville, Lord Neaves, John, lord Hope, and others. Smith's portraits were remarkable for correct drawing, simplicity of treatment, and a considerable grasp of character, rather than for the more pleasing graces of pictorial art. He was but a rare contributor to the London exhibitions. Smith exhibited for the last time in 1870, and died in his own house at Edinburgh on 21 July 1875.

[Cat. of Scottish National Gallery, Loan Exhibition of Scottish National Portraits, Edinburgh, 1884, and Sir Walter Scott Centenary Exhibition, 1872; Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott; Sir Walter Scott's Journal, vol. ii.; Irving's Eminent Scotsmen; Redgrave's Dictionary; information from Messrs. Adam and Cecil Gillies-Smith and J. L. Caw.]

L. C.