Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of a Lowland Gentleman , c.1780

David Martin 

Portrait of a Lowland Gentleman, David Martin
Oil on canvas
18th Century
36 x 28 inches 91.8 x 61.8 cm
Scottish Private Collection
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David Martin stands between Ramsay and Raeburn as an accomplished portrayer of the Scottish face and character, as the dourly appraising intelligence captured in this painting of an unknown Lowland gentleman demonstrates. This is an example of Martin's technique at its best, and recalls the contemporary three-quarter length William Earl of Mansfield (Christ Church, Oxford) which is reckoned among Martin''s best portraits.

Martin studied under Ramsay from c.1752, and in 1755 joined his master in Rome. He was able to remain in Rome for more than a year under the patronage of Robert Alexander, an Edinburgh banker and an example of the rich and enlightened patrons that Scotland's prosperity in the eighteenth century could foster. When Ramsay returned to London so did Martin, painting drapery in Ramsay''s studio until the mid-1760s. He is best known at this period for his engraving of Ramsay's celebrated portrait of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh).
Ramsay''s death in 1784 led Martin to return to Scotland, where he filled the vacuum left by the great painter, and occupied the position of leading painter until he was eclipsed by Henry Raeburn in the late 1790s.
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