Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) was born in Stockbridge, a suburb of Edinburgh, the son of a manufacturer. After being orphaned, he was placed in George Heriot’s Hospital, where he received an education and, at the age of sixteen, was apprenticed to the goldsmith James Gilliband. He moved on from jewellery to portrait miniatures and, after some success, he taught himself to paint in oils. His employer introduced him to David Martin, a portrait painter in Edinburgh, who loaned him portraits to copy. Raeburn never attended an academy for art and was entirely self taught, which perhaps accounts for his highly personal style of painting.
In 1815 he became a member of the Royal Academy and in 1822 he was knighted during a visit to Scotland by King George IV. He went on to help form the Royal Scottish Academy and died on 8 July 1823 in Edinburgh.
Ann Pattison was the daughter of the town clerk of Leith. She married William Urquhart, a wealthy Glasgow merchant, towards the end of 1812 or the beginning of 1813, so this painting may have been commissioned by her husband.
The painting ensures that all attention is focused on the youthful beauty of the sitter, who is thought to have been around 18 years of age, with no background distraction. She turns her head slightly to the left so that the light captures her facial expression. Raeburn has taken more care with her face and expression than with her clothing
Notice the matinee idol style of Raeburn’s portraiture – heroic stances and soft focus with self assured poses The portrait contains all the Raeburn hallmarks – pink faces, rich colours and strong confident brush strokes. His figures are always bathed in light with a theatrical play of light over the face very reminiscent of Hollywood star photographs of the 30s and 40s.
Sir Henry Raeburn is considered to be the best ever Scottish portrait painter and the first Scottish painter to be knighted.
Note – To confirm you are looking at a Raeburn portrait check that there is a single dab of white highlight on the nose – this was his signature!
See this portrait in Kelvingrove in the Scottish Identity art gallery in the East Wing on the 1st floor.
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