Completed Portraits: British 18th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 41 Who painted this portrait of Lieutenant Colonel John Graham of Duchray and Rednock?

Lieutenant Colonel John Graham of Duchray and Rednock 42nd Highlanders (copy after West)
Topic: Artist

Who painted this portrait of Lieutenant Colonel John Graham of Duchray and Rednock? Upon first inspection it looks like Raeburn or another portrait artist of a similar period/style.

Completed, Outcome

Alice Read,

The attribution of this work has now been amended to:

David Martin (1737–1797) or Archibald Skirving (1749–1819)

This change will appear on the Your Paintings website by the end of November 2014. Thank you to all for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all comments that led to this conclusion.


Martin Kemp,

Not flashy enough for Raeburn himself, but by one of the highly competent followers?

Al Brown,

Dr David Mackie at St. Catharine's College, University of Cambridge would be a useful contact: he's working on a Raeburn catalogue.

Alice Read,

Could someone please invite him to this discussion?

Alice Read,

This discussion is now linked to British Portraits.

Bendor Grosvenor,

Hard to say from the image, but not impossible it's an early Raeburn.

According to the text found at the above site there appears to be ambiguity regarding the names and active dates of the Graham's of Duchray and Rednock who served with the 42nd. A Thomas Graham of Duchray was gazetted Lt.-Col. of the 42nd in 1770 and retired in 1771. A John Graham of Duchray died at Rednock, in 1790 but is described as 'late captain in the 42nd'. John was a captain from 1774 so if this is his portrait it might date to any time from then till his death. The painting is much more believable as a Raeburn if it is an early work from c.1780.

Bendor Grosvenor,

I think we should also as Dr Duncan Thomson. He's good on Raeburn. I'll drop him a line.

Bendor Grosvenor,

PS - can we please have a higher resolution image uploaded? Thanks!

Martin Hopkinson,

Please send an image to Stephen Lloyd, the Curator at Knowsley. He knows all about Skirving

Neil Jeffares,

On the basis of a better photograph I agree with Bendor Grosvenor: not Skirving.

There has been no discussion on this topic for 3 weeks. No firm conclusion has been reached but a number of suggestions have been made. I think it unlikely there is a great deal more to come here and I therefore recommend we close this discussion.

I think it would be a pity to close the discussion without at least suggesting a modification to the 'Artist(s)' line on the Your Paintings website. Something like 'Circle of Sir Henry Raeburn' would make the work more easily retrievable in the future than if it remains one of the many thousands by 'unknown artist' -- which it really does not deserve. I wonder if David Mackie has been consulted, as Al Brown suggested above? I believe his doctoral thesis on the artist included a substantial catalogue of Raeburn's paintings and I'm sure his view would be worth seeking.

Martin Hopkinson,

There is one other artist who should perhaps considered - the French exile painting in Scotland , Henri Danloux [1753-1809], to whom Dr Duncan Thomson has attributed the iconic 'Raeburn' , Rev Robert Walker, The Skating Minister in the National Gallery of Scotland. I am by no means an expert on Danloux, but Dr Thomson, Helen Smailes and other specialists could give an opinion on this suggestion, I am sure

Tim Williams,

There's another portrait of Graham that sold at Sotheby's Olympia in 2004, cataloged as 'Circle of George Watson'.

Not many Watson's to compare with online (I'm guessing they mostly got attributed to Raeburn), but must be a contender:

Martin Hopkinson,

If by Watson, it would have to be one of his earliest surviving portraits, unless this a posthumous portrait, which does not seem very likely.
Watson was born in 1767. The sitter died in 1790. Watson spent 2 years in Reynolds' studio in London in the mid -late 1780s, but might have been able to paint this portrait in the late 1780s
Danloux only arrived in Britain in 1792, which fact would tend to rule him out as a candidate, unless the portrait is posthumous

Martin Hopkinson,

The case for this being an early Raeburn seems strongest to me. Has Bendor contacted Duncan Thomson about it?

Tim Williams,

The fingers are seemingly pointing that way Martin. I note it was a gift in 2010 - was this a descendant of the sitter? Or might we be able to trace the provenance some way? Is there a label on the reverse that identifies the sitter? Finding a portrait of the sitter's wife would give us some extra clues.

Bendor Grosvenor,

I've asked Dr. Thomson for his view, based on the high-res image, and will report back.

Martin Hopkinson,

Lucy Dixon, who later worked at the BM Print Room, wrote a MA thesis on David Martin, with a catalogue raisonne of his oil paintings at the University of St Andrews in 1995, which she followed with an exhibition devoted to him at the University of St Andrews. Sheila O' Connell and John Frew might have her contact details

Martin Hopkinson,

There is also an article by Lucy Dixon in the St Andrews Journal of Art History and Museum Studies, 1995

Mark Gray,

Try another route - with flimsier evidence and a lot of supposition. We know the sitter died at Rednock in October 1790. The dress (certainly the collared coat, under collared waistcoat and bow cravat) is more popular in the later 1780s than earlier, so my guess is that this is somewhere between 1785 and 1790. That probably knocks out Ramsay (even if style does not!), and it certainly knocks out Danloux. It looks nothing like a Skirving to me. So my candidate for this uninspired and rather flat portrait is David Allan. Allan would have been in Edinburgh as Master of the Trustees Drawing Academy from 1786. Allan was a hit and miss artist (more frequently miss than hit in my view) but could this be him on one of his better days?

An alternative solution might start by assuming this is one of a commissioned pair, and we need to find the artist of a now missing -but possibly formerly sold - portrait of his wife Christian MacGregor Graham.

Martin Hopkinson,

Lucy Dixon is now Lucy McNeill . I will try and contact her.

I am grateful to Martin Hopkinson for prompting me to contribute to this interesting discussion.
In terms of the various artists proposed for the attribution of this portrait, which I would date on clothing and style to the mid-1780s, I would rule out Raeburn, David Martin, Danloux (whom I proposed as the author of 'The Skating Minister' in 2005) and George Watson.
However, I would suggest that serious consideration be given to an attribution to Archibald Skirving (1749-1819). In 1999 I authored an exhibition catalogue for the SNPG on this outstanding Scottish pastellist. However, his rare portrait miniatures and oil portraits are quite tricky to attribute. For his miniatures he adopts two styles of painting in watercolour on ivory, mainly utilising a highly veristic technique throughout his career, while occasionally adopting a more painterly approach.
For his few surviving oil paintings, Skirving begins his career working in around 1770 under the influence of Allan Ramsay, as with the head-and-shoulders portrait of his father Adam Skirving (versions in the SNPG and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney) as well as the youthful self-portrait and the depiction of his mother Christian Carnegie (both in Sydney).
Two later examples of Skirving's portraiture in oils on canvas, painted in the years after 1800, depict an Unknown Man, possibly his father in old age (East Lothian Museums Service) and the Revd Alexander Carlyle (SNPG).
However, the most telling evidence for Skirving being the author of the portrait under discussion, is comparison with the unflinching realism, sharp delineation and crisp depiction of flesh tones and clothing that are hallmarks of the artist's portraiture in pastels. Compare his paintings in crayons of other male sitters such as Hugh Cleghorn of Stavithie (Private Collection), Lord Elcho (Stanway, Glos.), Robert Boswell of St Boswells (Private Collection) and even the iconic drawing in red chalk of Robert Burns (SNPG).
If the portrait under discussion were to be conserved and have the yellowed varnish removed, I would be confident that Skirving would be revealed as the most likely artist. I would date the portrait to the years 1784 to 1786, thus after his return from seven apparently fruitless years working as a miniaturist in London and before his more productive stay in Rome.

Lucy McNeill,

This portrait does not appear in my MPhil thesis David Martin (1737-1797): A Catalogue Raisonne of his portraits in oils, 1995 St Andrews University. The painting was unknown to me at the time of my research in the early 1990s. In my opinion the portrait dates from the mid to late 1780s. In terms of composition it fits with Martin's paintings of that time - the plain background and clarity of facial features. During 1780-1783 Martin divided his time between London and Edinburgh and from 1784 (the year Ramsay died) Martin lived and worked solely until his death in 1797 in Edinburgh. I think it could be by Martin.

Lucy McNeill

Thanks, Lucy.

One of the exciting things about working in a Regimental museum is that (almost) none of our paintings are known outside of the Regiment, and certainly not been catalogued. There are a few notable exceptions like our (previously lost) Faed and our Gibb.

We're extremely grateful for this resource so we can start getting the answers to some questions about our art.

With due respect to John Morrison we seem to have two competing attributions here, both by established experts on the artists concerned, to: David Martin (1737-1797) and Archibald Skirving (1749-1819). Both seem plausible on the evidence. Perhaps the collection would consider recording possible attributions to both artists.