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Sir John Watson Gordon


1788 - 1864

Painter. Born in Edinburgh, the son of a naval captain, Watson Gordon attended the Trustees Drawing Academy in the city, initially with the intention of joining the Royal Engineers. However his aptitude for art persuaded his father, whose brother was the artist George Watson (1767 - 1837), that this was the profession his son should follow. He added the surname Gordon in 1826.

Watson Gordon established his reputation with sitters such as Sir Walter Scott in 1820 but he became highly successful after he was able to take over Sir Henry Raeburn's extensive list of notable clients after Raeburn died in 1823. His sitters include critic Prof. John Wilson (1785 - 1854), lawyer and historian Sir Archibald Alison (1792 - 1867), church-leader Dr. Thomas Chalmers (1780 - 1847), academic Rev. Dr. John Lee (1779 - 1859), poet Thomas De Quincey (1785 - 1859) and Sir David Brewster (1781 - 1868). His portrait of George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie (1770 - 1838), hangs in the Archers' Hall, Edinburgh; that of General Sir Alexander Hope (1769 - 1837) in the County Buildings, Linlithgow; Charles Hope, Lord Granton (1763 -1851), in Parliament House, Edinburgh. Others of his works hang in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and the National Portrait Gallery in London.

In 1850 Watson Gordon was knighted and appointed Limner for Scotland to Queen Victoria. In the same year he was elected President of the Royal Scottish Academy. The Watson Gordon Chair of Fine Art was endowed by his family at the University of Edinburgh in 1879, the first chair in art history in the United Kingdom.


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