Completed British 19th C, except portraits, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 68 Who painted ‘Auld Robin Gray’?

Topic: Artist

This is not by the sculptor, and earlier, but by which Scottish artist?

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The artist was identified as James Stevenson Craig (1830–1879), who was not previously represented on Art UK and whose vital dates were unclear. There is now a biography on Art UK.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the discussion. To anyone viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Edward Alfred Briscoe Drury’s works on Art UK

Photographs from the collection are attached. The painting is signed and dated 1872 (possibly 1892) on the table. The label has ‘A Drury’ and the plaque ‘H. Drury’, both initials that are easily confused.

Could the signature be ‘Craig’ instead, as the collection’s current curator suggests, with the initials (JC?) intertwined? Artists on Art UK with surname Craig who painted genre subjects and around the right time: R. H. Craig (active 1880s) and H. Craig (no dates, but a work dated 1854)

Christopher Wright, ‘British and Irish Paintings in Public Collections’, p. 308, attributes it to Drury the sculptor and includes a subtitle: ‘Auld Robin Gray: the world turned upside down, the fool who thinks to weigh down the scales of Justice with hot air’ (List 1993, inv. No. P221/76).

In the Scots ballad ‘Auld Robin Gray’ (written by Lady Anne Lindsay, first published anonymously in 1772), a young woman is compelled by her parents’ misfortune to marry a kindly older gentleman while her impecunious young lover is at sea trying to earn enough for them to marry.

Drury or Craig, or another name entirely? We would be very grateful for help in finding the artist please.

Scott Thomas Buckle,

Looks like the work of James Stephenson Craig (fl. 1854-1870).

Jacinto Regalado,

This is not by Drury, who was only 16 in 1872 and is not known to have been a painter. As Scott notes above, it is consistent with the work of the genre painter James Stephenson Craig (whose vital dates are unclear and probably not established).

Marcie Doran,

The attached documents show that James Stevenson Craig was living in London in 1865 and 1871, and passed away there in 1879. His name appears on his son’s marriage certificate from 1880. That 1871 Census record shows that he was born in Scotland. Note the spelling of his name.

Here’s a similar signature on a work dated 1869.

Kieran Owens,

Marcie's link to the Bukowski's website reveals a directly believable comparison between Craig's signature there and the signature on this discussion's painting, as per the attached composite, which confirm's Scott's suggestion above.

The Northern Weekly Gazette reference would seem to confirm the attribution, too.

Jacinto Regalado,

That signature comparison by Kieran is definitive. The 1872 picture is clearly signed Craig. Now all that remains is the year of birth.

Marcie Doran,

Yes, thank you for the excellent composite, Kieran.

A heartbreaking article about the inquest into Mr. Craig’s death is in the ‘Barnet Press’ of 10 May 1879. His death was ruled a “suicide whilst in a state of temporary insanity”. Mr. Craig was living apart from his wife and he was malnourished, despite help from his friends. His age was given as “about 52” years.

Kieran Owens,

Despite the fact the Craig is listed in Graves' 1905 dictionary of Royal Academy contributors as having exhibited at the RA in 1854 and 1861, from 10 & 1/2 Stanhope Street, Park Place, Regent's Park, London, under the name James Stephenson Craig, he is actually listed in the original annual catalogues for those two years simply as "J. Craig".

The Post Office Directory of 1862, for 10, Fitzroy Road, London, shows that his middle name was spelled Stevenson:

Marcie's various attachments also show that the artist's middle name is spelled Stevenson and not Stephenson. The Stevenson can be seen spelled this way on his son's 1880 marriage certificate.

On the basis of his Census appearances, he was born in Scotland in 1830. He was the father of the painter Robert Henry Craig (1858–1922), aka Alexander Rosell. The latter's birth is registered in St. Pancras in September 1858.

Kieran Owens,

The tragedy continues for the Craig family. The attached, from the Westminster Gazette of Tuesday 8th August 1922, describes the suicide of Robert Henry Craig. In the article, his professional names is given as Albert (and not Alexander) Rosell.

The second attachment, from the Western Daily Press, of Wednesday 9th August 1922, reports that Robert Henry Craig was a Painter in Ordinary to Queen Victoria and that he had decorated the Royal Mausoleum at Frogmore.

'James S. Craig' also exhibited at the SBA in 1854 and 1855, 1858, 1866 and 1868- 1870/1. Apart from his portrait of the 'Rev. W.J. Langdale B.A., of St Catharine Hall, Cambridge', shown in 1855, the rest were subject pictures. Most were from Walter Scott or other Scottish trad./lit. sources but one (1858) was a 'A scene from Horace's Ode to Sestius'. Prices given range from 5 guineas to £100.

Kieran Owens,

As the painting came into the collection as part of a large group of oils and watercolours, following the donor's death, the acquisition method might be altered thus:

Bequest from Alderman C. C. Walker, 1929

Jacinto Regalado,

J. S. Craig exhibited at the British Institution 1856-1865; see . In 1860, he showed a scene from "Auld Robin Gray," but it was not ours, as the accompanying line from the ballad indicates it depicted a later incident, after the marriage, when the girl's lover returns looking like a ghost of his former self.

Osmund Bullock,

The daughter Kate's birth (according to censuses at Ramsgate in 1856 or early '57, before her parents' marriage) was apparently not registered, either in Kent or London (Middx), and as Craig or Smith.

In the (7 Apr) 1861 census (attached) James Craig and family were already living at 10 Fitzroy Road. This suggests that the 10/10½ Stanhope St address from which Craig senior exhibited during that period at both the SBA and the BI (attached) was probably his studio address.

The age given for him in this earlier census is 33, which suggests a birth year of 1827 or early '28. Since this concurs with the age of 52 at his death in early May 1879 (given in both the inquest report and the GRO index), I think a birth year of "c.1827" is probably a better bet.

Jacinto Regalado,

There is no other work listed under this artist on Art UK, which seems odd. I suspect there must be other works by him in public hands, but apparently either unattributed or misattributed.

Kieran Owens,

Can "By this artist" be understood to mean by Craig, not Drury?

Jacinto Regalado,

By Craig, Kieran. There's plenty by Drury, albeit sculpture.

Craig's name and interest in Scottish subjects suggest at least a family point of origin there within one or two generations.

Other artistic Craigs in north London in the early 19th century were related to William Marshall Craig (1763/4-1829), though there's no immediately obvious link. This is what ODNB says of his family, in which only one of at least two sons is identified: if JSC was born c. 1827, then his father Robert would have been contemporary with them:

'[W.M.] Craig was married three times. With his first wife, Elizabeth, he had at least two sons, the younger of whom, John Kershaw Craig (1801–1889), exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1819 and 1821 from W. M. Craig's address, 124 Oxford Street, London, and after graduating from Oxford University was ordained a clergyman of the Church of England. Craig married secondly, at St Pancras on 8 August 1809, Elizabeth Boyce; and thirdly, at St Marylebone, on 21 May 1821, Maria Dutton. Several artists called W. Craig who were all related exhibited from 88 Charlotte Street, Rathbone Place, London. Latterly resident in Nassau Street, Craig was buried at St Pancras parish chapel on 22 January 1829, having died days earlier, aged sixty-five.'

Kieran Owens,

As pointed out, the use of the name Alexander appears to be a mistake and the record might properly be amended to include him as Albert Rosell.

Marcie Doran,

Kieran’s post of 16/08/2023 18:19 included the dates for Robert Henry Craig as 1858-1922. The birth year for Rosell on Art UK is indeed incorrect. The birth of Robert Henry Craig was registered in Q3 1858.

Osmund Bullock,

Pieter, I think it's more certain than you suggest that JSC was a Scot - the 1861 & 1871 Censuses both give his place of birth as Scotland, though frustratingly with no further detail.

Marcie Doran,

Yes, I agree.

He was called “a young artist from North Britain” in 1859.

Perhaps he was related to the artist J. Craig who exhibited in Edinburgh in 1840 and 1841?

I thought his mother’s maiden name might have been Stevenson but I’ve had no luck searching the Scotlandspeople records. I haven’t been able to trace Jeannet Craig who witnessed the artist’s marriage in 1858.

Does Christopher Wood's 'Victorian Artists' (or anything else) list any exhibiting record for Robert Henry Craig (1858-1922) either as that or as 'Albert/Alexander Rosell'? I've failed to find anything in the RA lists (perhaps through pilot error after 1905) and there's nothing at the SBA, nor is he mentioned in the Art UK link to 'the British and Irish artists of the 20th century' index.

For a man reported a 'painter in ordinary' to Q. Victoria he seems pretty invisible and he doesn't figure on the Royal Collection Trust web pages.

Are there also any other facts (Marcie) about where his father was living/ found at his death in the report you mention in the‘Barnet Press’ of 10 May 1879?

Kieran Owens,

To address Pieter's question above, attached is James Stevenson Craig's Camden burial record, which event took place at 3.30pm on Saturday 3rd May 1879. His address was given as 15, Park Street (Camden Town) and his age as 53. As can be seen, his middle name is spelled Stevenson.

Kieran Owens,

P.S. The 1870's Park Street, Camden, is today known as Parkway.

Kieran Owens,

The Morning Post, of Wednesday 19th June 1895, reported that Albert Rosell was responsible for the painting of frescoes in the Hotel Dieudonné, Ryder Street, St. James's.

Thanks for those additions. The 3 May burial record and 'Tottenham and Edmonton..'clipping of Saturday 3 May show JSC died on Wednesday 30 April 1879, which is not obvious from others previously given.

David Gray's evidence at the inquest on 9 May that he had 'helped in the ornamentation of the mosaleum [sic] at Frogmore' also suggests confusion/error in the report that his son Robert Henry Craig had done that and had been a 'painter in ordinary' to Queen Victoria (second attachment @ Kieran Owens, 16/08/2023 18:42).

Frogmore was completed in 1871, when RHC (aka Rosell) would have been 13. If his father was part of a decorative team working there I suppose it's just possible, given he later did decorative work himself (as per Kieran immediately above).

Jacinto Regalado,

There is nothing by J.S. Craig in the Royal Collection.

Marcie Doran,

Here’s a notice from 1852 that mentions two works by the “rising artist” James Craig. Brown & Ure were auctioneers in Glasgow. Here, too, is an article from 1861 about a case at the Insolvent Debtors’ Court. Dr. Sutton was certainly an interesting character - he wrote ‘Quackery Unmasked’.

Osmund Bullock,

Re Robert Henry Craig [“RHC”]: ‘Victorian Artists’ (C Wood 1995) has him listed as Alexander Rosell, but no exhibiting is noted – see attached. The Brighton residence given is correct, but was short-lived: he is recorded in London only up to 1919/20 (elec registers & censuses – more detail to come), but moved to Sussex after the death in 1920 (Q2 Kensington) of his wife Sarah Ann Minnie née Mason (b.1857 Q3). Though I haven’t paid to see the details, he is apparently in the June 1921 Census at Preston (now part of Brighton & Hove), and it was there he died in June 1922. If he ever exhibited, I can find no evidence of it. He does not appear in Johnson & Greutzner, though there is a Robert Craig listed as active 1887-89; but he was based and exhibited in Scotland, and I think most unlikely to be RHC.

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Osmund Bullock,

The Alexander / Albert error predates the C. Wood book by some years – entries for the artist in Lyle art price guides of the early 1980s ( suggest that Sotheby’s at least were already referring to him then as Alexander. See attached. An error it undoubtedly is, though: I have failed to find a single contemporary reference to him as Alexander, while (as we will shortly see) there are many such to him as Albert. Interestingly, as late as 1955 an American magazine carried a dealer’s advert for one of his paintings that correctly called him ‘Albert Rosell’, so the recent error was not universal.

Osmund Bullock,

The 'Royal Academy' added to his name in the last was doubtless fanciful.

Osmund Bullock,

RHC’s painting of the execution of Edith Cavell referred to in the Western Daily Press’s account of his inquest (Kieran 16/08/2023 18:42) was published as a photo-reproduction (attached). And in fact the war and its thirst for sentimental patriotic images may well have revitalized his painting career, at least for a while: ‘The Windsor Magazine’ of Dec 1915 carried an article, “Aspects of the War in Recent Pictures” ( , in which two paintings by Albert Rosell were illustrated, and a third mentioned in the text (also attached). I wondered from that if he specialized in illustrations, but he is not mentioned under any name in either of the standard works on British Book Illustrators (Houfe C19th & Horne C20th).

Assuming Pieter is doing a biog of the son as well as the father, I'll list his movements shortly, but have to stop for a while now. From c.1892 he actually used the Rosell pseudonym for over 20 years in his private/official life, not just as a professional 'nom de brosse'.

J Foster,

'The Walsall Observer' 16 Feb, 1929 p. 9, reported the Alderman CC Walker bequest paintings had been examined by Mr Solomon Charles Kaines-Smith (1876-1958) Keeper of Art at Birmingham Art Gallery (1927-41) who submitted a report to the Free Library and Art Gallery Committee- perhaps this is held at Birmingham Archives? The report attached is a poor scan (British Newspaper Archives)

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Thanks all: here's the father but the son can wait until the murk clears further. I think he only made C. Wood 1995, since not in the older one on the NMM office shelf, or in anything else as Rosell or Craig (eg British Artists, 1880-1945 etc).

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Jacinto Regalado,

Pieter, you may want to mention that the middle name tends to be given incorrectly as Stephenson.

Jacob Simon,

Typo - the daughter was born 1856 or 1857 rather than 1836 or 1837.

And probably worth adding that James's father was Robert (see James's marriage banns).

Jacob Simon,

Could James be the son of the following marriage?

Robert Craig married Margaret Stevenson on 05/06/1812 at
Kilbarchan (ScotlandsPeople website)

Marcie Doran,

The record COR/3/2/1922/91 at the National Archives shows RHC’s two addresses in 1922 (Osmund 21/08/2023 15:27).

“Title: CRAIG
Description: Robert Henry of 32 Middle Road, Preston Village, Sussex, artist (painter); 63; at 'The Studio', South Road, Brighton …”

Osmund Bullock,

Yes, those addresses are as given (albeit less fully) in the first of the two newspaper reports re his suicide found by Kieran (16/08/2023 18:42).

I've been holding back from posting the detailed biographical stuff on RHC in the light of Pieter's comment (or plea?) a couple of days ago that "...the son can wait until the murk clears further"; but perhaps the moment has come. Pieter? - it won't affect that other puzzle you've emailed me, which is mainly solved and my reply near completion.

The comment about 'murk' was the hope that more would appear on RHC/Rosell and work by him to fill the gap between his address at marriage in 1880 and his death in 1922. So far we have just added an intermediate address in Erlanger Road, New Cross Gate in 1894.

Osmund Bullock,

Ah, sorry. I thought you meant we should try and eliminate the remaining murk about the father - notably the details of his Scottish roots - before getting to grips with the son. I will collate and post as soon as I can.

Thanks: since I was in Piccadilly yesterday I took this snap of the former Hotel Dieudonné frontage at 7-11 Ryder Street. If as Marcie suggests (21/08/2023 16:49) there are images of RH Craig/Albert Rosell's 'frescoes' there in the 'Tatler' of 7 August 1901 they may be the only records. The visible interiors from the street are Christie's modern back offices on the north side of the block of which the south facade is their more classical 'front of house' on King Street. The place was apparently fully stripped out and reconstructed long ago, though the original frontage seems to be intact between the end-of-street buildings that flank it.

Five comments relating to the artist John Oake Banks have been removed, because all the information in them has now been sent to me separately in order to start a new discussion.

Osmund Bullock,

Pieter, a couple of things that clarify/amplify your summary of James Craig’s exhibiting address(es).

Stanhope Street (Park Place) was renamed Delancey Street in 1868 to avoid confusion with a different Stanhope St just half a mile away, and 10½ Stanhope St was in fact the same place as Stanhope Yard. It was without doubt where his studio was located - indeed by 1875 the building(s) in the yard had become known as Stanhope Yard Studios, when the more distinguished Scots genre and portrait painter Tom (Thomas Alexr Ferguson) Graham began working there for a decade, while living close by; other artists followed him into the 1890s.

Since the SBA list shows Craig senr was there at least as late as 1870/1 (and also lived nearby), it seems quite likely the men were acquainted, and Graham may even have taken over the studio from him. Two other addresses associated with Craig, Pratt St and Park St, are also very close.

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Thanks to everyone for the research into the life and family of James Stevenson Craig (1830-1879), identified as the painter of 'Auld Robin Gray' and to Peter for drawing it all together. I can now recommend closure of this discussion.

It is worth mentioning, in case Peter wants to add it to his biography, Jacob Simon's discovery that Craig's father was Robert and was possibly the Robert Craig who married Margaret Stevenson on 05/06/1812 at Kilbarchan. The date and the adoption of the maternal name Stevenson are plausible evidence.

Good point and sorry for the omission, so perhaps Marion could adjust as follows:

'A subject painter who often drew on Scottish literary sources including ballads, poems and the work of Walter Scott, reflecting his own birth in Scotland. Where is unknown but - since his father was also Robert - possibly as son of the Robert Craig who married Margaret Stevenson on 5th June 1812 at Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire. He is only otherwise recorded as living and working in London where, on 25th February 1858, he married at St Pancras to Leicestershire-born Hannah Smith, who was about ten years younger.' etc....

Osmund Bullock,

Andrew, I'm afraid the Craig/Stevenson juxtaposition seems to be just coincidence. Between Aug 1812 and Apr 1835 Robert & Margaret Craig had a string of nine children (all christened at Kilmalcolm, 5 miles from Kilbarchan), and none was called James - see attached.

Given the later family propensity for changing name, I wondered if either Maxwell (b. Jul 1826) or William (b. Jun 1828) was our man under an earlier one. It certainly wasn't Maxwell, who was still living and farming in the locality in the 1880s/90s (as his father had before him). William I can't find after 1841 (when he was 12), but it's hard to be sure he's gone as there are numerous namesakes of much the same age in the area. It's possible, I suppose, he moved south and changed his name; but they were an ordinary farming family, none of the children was given a middle name, and it seems unlikely. Anyway, clearly impossible to prove either way without further evidence.

Osmund Bullock,

Pieter, I don't think I ever produced the R H Craig / Albert Rosell info for your biog, unless I sent it direct. I can pull it together and post here in 24 hours - but perhaps it's better not to delay closure, and email it instead. Andrew/Pieter, what do you think?

Thanks Osmund. I've emailed Marion with a less radical adjustment to include JSC's father's name only. No need to post RHC/Rosell information here for me unless Andrew wishes you to: just e-mail and I'll incorporate into existing potted bio draft.

Please rely on the final version of the biography on Art UK, rather than updates posted on the discussion, since updates also come by email.