Completed Maritime Subjects, Portraits: British 19th C, Scotland: Artists and Subjects 22 Who painted this portrait of ship owner and builder James Brown?

Topic: Subject or sitter

[Further to a submission that provided information about the sitter] As the question relates as to whom may have painted the portrait, we suggest the possibility that a relative of the family, a local artist of the name 'Chalmers' but, more likely, we think it was painted by one of the group of artists from Edinburgh who frequented the Perth area where James lived between 1814 and 1838.

Sue Howard, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. This portrait is now catalogued as 'attributed to David Junor (1773–1835)'.

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.


Jacob Simon,

Are the measurements correct or is the image cut or distorted? The image has an aspect ratio of 1.09 whereas the measurements give a ratio of 1.36.

Jacinto Regalado,

This looks above the level of "local artist" work. It is not Lawrence, but it is competent, like good provincial work.

The Collection has commented that the canvas size recorded is 29.2 x 44.5 cm - Art UK had the frame size. It would appear that the image is squashed and they will attempt to provide a corrected image, at least for Art Detective purposes, in its corrected state, once access to the Collection is possible.

Jacob Simon,

Wow! If this is correct in cms the work has shrunk.

If a Perth connection is correct - though surely there would have been artists based in Dundee or taking in Dundee on their sojourns north from Edinburgh (or further South) who would settle in a town for a few weeks taking sittings before moving on to the next at this time too - the most likely candidate would be David Junor (1773-1835), Art Master at Perth Academy and the teacher there of David Octavius Hill RSA (1802-70); Thomas Duncan RSA (1807-45) and John [Mclaren] Barclay RSA (1811-86).

His Portrait of Lord Provost Thomas Hay Marshall in Perth Museum and Art Gallery (1/113) does not do him justice, being a posthumous portrait, and better comparable examples would be his (FA 49/78) Portrait of John Wright (1768-1849) Lord Provost of Perth, or the oils (currently unattributed) of (FA 96/78) Thomas Luke (1776-1832) Bailie of Perth and (1993.390) Portrait of a Minister (which stylistically are probably by Junor) which are also in the Perth Collection.

All are featured on ArtUK.

Jacob Simon,

No one has commented on the RSA's useful suggestion of David Junor as artist. This is possible but the portrait may be by another local artist. Thoughts from Scotland?

Marcie Doran,

Is it possible to obtain an image of the work 'Charles Carmichael'? A man of that name from Dundee was an associate of James Brown according to the 'Dundee Courier' of February 27, 1988.

Has the artist Henry William Pickersgill been considered?

Here, too, is the probate entry for James Brown, in case it helps with names of his associates.

Jacob Simon,

Pickersgill is a much more solid artist, in the Thomas Lawrence tradition. I suspect that we are looking for a Scottish artist, possibly a local one.

Marcie Doran,

My apologies. The probate record that I attached would not be for James Brown (1784-1861). An article in the ‘Dundee Courier’ of Monday, January 21, 1861, mentions the passing of James Brown.

Sue Howard 01,

Thank you for all these recent comments. I wonder is there any date or information on the reverse? Or if it is known the date on which the portrait came into the Dundee Art Gallery or who it was purchased from or donated by? This may help me in tracing its movements through the family.
Thank you Dundee for responding to my request.
Marcie Doran has my new email address. I received your mail Marcie and have replied.

Sue Howard 01,

Just a note that the portrait is of a young man, I thought probably in his mid 30’s. Which would put a date of between 1820 and 1834. At this time he was active in Perth, Perthshire with recent notoriety for resurrecting ships. In 1838 his son died and by 1941 he has moved and is living in Dundee as a respected shipbuilder.

Sue Howard 01,

Sorry that should read by 1841 he has moved.

Marcie Doran,

I downloaded the probate records of James Brown from the ScotlandsPeople website.

I have attached screenprints since the original file upload failed (jpeg files). The National Records of Scotland (NRS) owns the copyright to the images.

The documents show that the name of his wife was “Elizabeth Watt or Brown” and his surviving child was “Eliza Brown”. Elizabeth lived at "Craigie Cottage near Dundee".

Sue Howard has already done a lot of research about her family and I don’t wish to duplicate it but I thought that it might be useful for others to have this information.

Sue, I have asked the Collection if they have anything more to add here. You can see it is recorded as 'unknown acquisition method' - I note an Accession number with 1971 within it, which might indicate a year. David

The Collection have commented: 'Thank you for zoning in on the main question, but there doesn’t seem to be anything on the database to shed light on its provenance. The BH1971 number is actually one that was given the work during an inventory. So the painting likely came into the collection earlier than that. We did manage to check the catalogue of ‘Old Dundee’, a landmark exhibition held here in 1892 and the painting was not included, which suggests that it was not known to the organisers at that time (all important individuals from engineers to provosts were included) and was not in the collection at that time. So came into the collection between 1892 and 1971 – doesn’t help us much we're afraid.'

The Collection added that a physical check of the painting remains difficult at this present time, but they are confident that any markings/labels/signatures would have been noted and added to the database.

Thank you for sharing information and offering suggestions in this discussion on the portrait of James Brown.

We have checked the painting in store and there is no signature on the canvas or any labels/marks on the verso to suggest who the artist is. The dimensions are: 74.8 x 62.2 cm (sight) and 96 x 82 x 9 cm (frame).

In the left background of the work, there is a small representation of a ship being built. This suggests that the painting dates to Brown’s time in Perth – 1820s. The article in the Courier (Jan 1861) gives a clear account of his career, his ship building phase apparently ending when he left Perth.

The portrait of Brown and those in Perth’s collection by David Junor are similar in style and date, and therefore we agree with our RSA colleagues that Junor is the most likely candidate. We would be happy to amend the artist name to David Junor, attributed.

I regret that Alexander Keith’s portrait of Charles Carmichael (1782-1843) is completely covered in mulberry paper to protect the unstable paint layer, which is the reason why there is no image available. Carmichael was the younger brother and partner of James Carmichael (1776-1853) engineer.

Jacob Simon,

“Who painted this portrait of ship owner and builder James Brown?”, we are asked (30/04/2021). The picture belongs to Dundee Art Galleries and Museums Collection.

The Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture has suggested the most likely candidate to be David Junor (1773-1835), art master at Perth Academy (17/05/2021). Dundee has responded, “The portrait of Brown and those in Perth’s collection by David Junor are similar in style and date, and therefore we agree with our RSA colleagues that Junor is the most likely candidate. We would be happy to amend the artist name to David Junor, attributed.” (17/02/2022).

This is a case where we should listen attentively to those familiar with local artists. On this basis I recommend closing this ten-month-old discussion by giving the artist as Attributed to David Junor (1773-1835).