Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait miniature of a young Gentleman, believed to be a self portrait of the artist, wearing blue jacket with matching waistcoat, white shirt with frilled cuffs and black neck tie 

James Scouler c.1740-1812

Portrait miniature of a young Gentleman, believed to be a self portrait of the artist, wearing blue jacket with matching waistcoat, white shirt with frilled cuffs and black neck tie, James Scouler
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Watercolour on ivory
18th Century
Oval, 3 3/8in (86mm) high
 
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Another version of this miniature, with the artist portraying himself in profile, was sold Christie’s, London, 14th October 1998 (now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge). Scouler wears the same clothing in both miniatures, aside from the black neck tie. The portrait, which is slightly smaller than the profile in the Fitzwilliam, also appears to date from slightly earlier.

Scouler was born in Edinburgh, the son of an organ builder. He followed his father into this profession but his talent for drawing must have been prodigious, as, at the age of about 15, he won a prize for drawing from the 'Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce'. This must have determined his chosen career, as in London he attended the drawing classes at the St. Martin's Lane 'Academy' run by William Hogarth. He also studied the classical sculpture at the Duke of Richmond's Gallery which opened to students in 1758.

From 1761, he exhibited at the Society of Artists, which had opened in London the year before. In 1769, the Royal Academy opened but Scouler only chose to exhibit there from 1780. This newly discovered self portrait of the young Scouler shows an awareness of oil painting in terms of his chosen composition. It has the self-consciousness of a young, emerging artist but also a confidence, probably gained from his training as a draughtsman. He continued to be adventurous with his compositions throughout his career, often painting sitters half length and including the accoutrements of their daily life. He worked in watercolour but also in crayons and there is some suggestion he experimented with enamels. He lived in London until his death in 1812.

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