Painter and architect. Nasmyth was born in Edinburgh's Grassmarket. He studied at the Trustees' Academy under Alexander Runciman (1736-85) and started his career as an apprentice coach-painter in the city. With the encouragement of Allan Ramsay (1713 - 1784), he trained in art technique in London and travelled in Italy, which greatly influenced his work. Nasmyth became an acclaimed painter of portraits, including a famous work of Robert Burns, which hangs in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (Edinburgh), with original copies by the artist in the Kelvingrove Gallery (Glasgow) and National Portrait Gallery (London). Nasmyth later turned away from portraiture, becoming an important painter of Scottish landscapes, indeed he was described by Sir David Wilkie (1785 - 1841) as the father of Scottish landscape painting.
He is also known as a theatre scene painter, for the Theatres Royal in Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as a garden designer, an engineer and architect. Nasmyth designed the classical temple which houses St. Bernard's Well and produced an early design for the Dean Bridge, both in Edinburgh.
Nasmyth died in Edinburgh and is buried in St Cuthbert's Churchyard.