The Raeburn Way at National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh

Sir Henry Raeburn, 'Patrick Moir', image Neil Hanna
Sir Henry Raeburn, 'Patrick Moir'. Image Neil Hanna

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The Mound
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A rare portrait by celebrated Scottish artist Sir Henry Raeburn has been acquired by National Galleries of Scotland. Painted in 1785-6, Patrick Moir (1769–1810) is a great example of Raeburn’s mastery of the art of portraiture. The painting can be seen in the National*.

Born in Edinburgh in 1756 (where there is a street named after him, such was his acquired celebrity), Henry was originally apprenticed to a goldsmith, and showed enormous artistic talent as a young man, but lacked any formal artistic training.

Moving to London, he met the English portrait painter Joshua Reynolds, and after spending time in Italy, (during which he painted this portrait) he returned to Edinburgh in 1787 and began painting portraits of the rich, famous and important people of his day. Finding himself in constant demand, he went on to receive many honours, culminating in 1822 when he was knighted by George IV on the King’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822, a year before the artist’s death. Raeburn completed over 1,000 canvases in his lifetime, but this is the only known surviving portrait associated with Raeburn’s stay in Italy..

Henry visited Rome in 1784 and was acquainted with the influential Scottish antiquary, dealer and guide to British visitors, James Byres, and it’s thought that Byres was joined by his young nephew Patrick Moir during this time. When Byres returned to Scotland following the French invasion of Rome in 1797, Moir took charge of his uncle’s effects, including this portrait, and eventually arranged for their return to Aberdeenshire.

*The National Galleries of Scotland has recently undergone a brand update, and the Scottish National Gallery is now the National, while the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are the Portrait and Modern respectively.

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