Mobile menu

Allan Ramsay (1713-1784)

Allan Ramsay was the first Scottish artist of European significance. The son of the poet Allan Ramsay, he was born and trained in Edinburgh and continued his artistic education in Italy. He set up a successful studio in London as a portrait painter and was frequently employed to paint the Scottish nobility. Although very much a product of his Edinburgh upbringing, Ramsay also drew inspiration from the wider European cultural scene. His portraits, which fuse French and Italian influences, are characterised by a natural elegance and delicate colouring.

George III by Ramsay

George III by Allan Ramsay ©

Ramsay was introduced to George III by fellow-Scot, John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute. In 1760, he was selected to paint the King's state portrait, the official likeness of the new King. He subsequently became the first Scot to be appointed to the role of Principal Painter in Ordinary to His Majesty. Ramsay went on to produce some of his most distinguished and elegant work for the royal family.

Ramsay also played a leading role in the intellectual life of the time, particularly in Edinburgh, where he returned regularly. The city had emerged as the Scottish centre of the Enlightenment, the intellectual movement that flourished all over Europe in the eighteenth century.