SirHenry Raeburn

Sir Henry Raeburn / Artists

  • Name  : Raeburn
  • Born  : 1753
  • Died  : 1823
  • Category  : Artists
  • Finest Moment : His London Exhibition

The best Scottish portrait painter of his age, Raeburn was born 4 March 1756, in Stockbridge, Edinburgh, the son of a mill owner. Other than two short visits, one to Italy and one to London, he never left Scotland. He was educated at George Heriot's Hospital, and at the age of 16 was apprenticed to the jeweller James Gilliland. He began to paint miniatures, and soon attracted the attention of Edinburgh's then leading portraitist, David Martin.

With some guidance from Martin, Raeburn began to develop his style, one of austerity at first, with a sparse approach to backgrounds which yet seemed to focus attention on the sitters and imbue them with more atmosphere than might at first be realised. He married a widow in 1778, which gave him some financial stability.

He made a visit to Italy in 1784, and also met with Sir Joshua Reynolds in London. Both of these contacts inevitably affected his work, and his style opened up somewhat. He was a good conversationalist, and soon became a popular member of the Scottish Enlightenment.

His position was assured on the death of Martin in 1798, and Raeburn was then recognised as the leading portraitist, setting up a studio in York Place. The rich and aristocratic gravitated there as if pulled by magnets, and we are fortunate indeed that many of Scotland's well-known names have images for us to see, painted by an artist who was fundamentally empirical, rather than intellectual. Raeburn was easily the equal of Hogarth and Gainsborough.

He was knighted in 1822, and died on 8 July 1823, in Edinburgh.

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