Artists Illustrating Boys' Fashions: Sir Henry Raeburn (Scotland, 1746-1823)


Figure 1.--Thse boys are the Allen brothers of Errol. This painting was executed about 1790. Note the open ruffled collars. Also their skeleton suits are worn with knee breeches rather than long pants. The Allen Brothers portrait dates from early in Raeburn's career. He is experimnting with poses, much more lively that other artists at the time. The ligting is brilliabt. Art expets are impressed with his brushwork which is one of his best known attributes. Click on the imge for informtion about the boys.

Sir Henry Raeburn is perhaps the most well known Scottish painter. He is certainly one of the most highly regarded Scottish portrait painter. His work like the portrait here of the Allen boys is nothing short of brilliant. Raeburn is generally seen as one of the most masterful painters of the Scottish upper classes. This is because he painted portrit for thise who coul pay commissions. The portarits of boys reflect the prevalence of English fashions and the fact that well-to-do Scottish boys werw not wearing kilts in the late-18th and early-19th century. This would change dramtically as the Scottish literary renaissance gus would change dramatically as part of the Scottish renaisance and the Princesssv Victoria's enfatuation with Scotland.

Childhood

Sir Henry Raeburn was born in Stockbridge, near Edinburgh. We have little information on his boyhood other than the fact that he was an orphan. We have no information on the clothes he wore as a boy. He was apprenticed to a goldsmith and taught himself to paint, progressing from miniatures to full-size canvases. He conceived works with unique style and personal technique. This resulted from his own self-instruction. Although early training involved copying the paintings of a portraitist in his native Edinburgh, Raeburn never set foot inside the artistís studio or an academy.

Career

After marrying an affluent widow in 1780 he was able to devote himself fully to portrait painting. He traveled in Italy for 2 years from 1785-87, studying the masters. He returned to Edinburgh in 1787 and soon gained recognition as a portraitist of the Scottish upper class. He painted his first portrait in 1787. Sir Henry Raeburn is perhaps the most well known Scottish painter. He is certainly one of the most highly regarded Scottish portrait painter. His work like the portrait here of the Allen boys is nothing short of brilliant. Raeburn is generally seen as one of the most masterful painters of the Scottish upper classes. This is because he painted portrit for thise who coul pay commissions. Raeburn was knighted during George IV's much acclaimd visit to Scotland (1822). He subsequently appointed King's Limner and Painter for Scotland.

Body of Work

Raeburn's work shows the influence of the contemporary English portrait painter Sir Joshua Reynolds, whom he met; Raeburn has been called the Scottish Reynolds. His portraits are characterized by their "square touch" brushstroke style, dark backgrounds, and lack of preliminary drawing. Raeburn was elected president of the Society of Artists in Eduinburgh. In 1815 he became a member of the Royal Academy. George IV knighted him in 1822. Raeburn best-known works are The Rev. Robert Walker Skating (1784) and The McNab (1803-13), both in the National Gallery, Edinburgh, and Miss Eleanor Urquhart Raeburn (1795?, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.). Raeburn was a bortrit pinter. Muvh of his workdoes not have a Cttish flavor. A few adults are painted in Scottishoutfits, but only one boy. Most heoutfirs are inditunguishable from English portraits. What we see as time went on is very impressionistic Scottish landscapes used as backdrops for subjects. One art epert sees this as "foreshadowing the transition from Romanticism to Impressionism".

Individual Portraits

We have found several portrait that Raeburn painted of children througout his long career. Thee names and sates are all available providing us some very useful information on popular fashions among the Scottish elite, many the land-woning elite. Particulrly notable is the basically English styles the children are wearing and the rarity of Scottish national styles. We see no kilts, butone boy wearsa tartan skeliton suit. These works are a wonderful source of information during the early-18th and early-19th centurym basically the Empire/Regency era. Raeburn's portraits pictured here both show the skeketon fashion popular in the early 19th cebtury. The shift from knee breeches in the late 18th century to long pants in the early 19th century in these suits is apparent in Raeburns' work. The portarits of boys reflect the prevalence of English fashions and the fact that well-to-do Scottish boys werw not wearing kilts in the late-18th and early-19th century. This would change dramtically as the Scottish literary renaissance gus would change dramatically as part of the Scottish renaisance and the Princesss Victoria's enfatuation with Scotland. Raeburn lived and worked in Edinburgh. Most of his patrons were Scottish. He made some efforts to break into the licrative London art market, but never delt compfortable in London. He wrote fellow Scotsman and Academician David Wilkie saying that the pictures he sent to the annual exhibition at the Royal Academy were, 'merely.. an advertisement that I am still in the land of the living, but in other respects it does me no good, for I get no notice from anyone, nor have I the least conception how they look beside others.' (1819).

The Allen brothers (1790)

This portrait shows the skeleton suits that were worn in the late 18th century. They were worn with the kneebreeches common before the turn of the century. The blouses worn with these suits were almost always open necked with ruffled collars. The boys were John Lee (1781-1846) and James Allen (1783 - ? ). The sitters were the sons of John Allen of Inchmartine and his wife Flavel, whose family name is not known. Inchmartine is in the Carse of Gowrie on the north bank of the River Tay, a few miles from the estate and mansion house of Errol, which John Allen purchased in 1786. A deed of settlement of 1794 makes it clear that the eldest son, John Lee Allen, was to inherit the estate of Errol and that his second son, James Allen, was to succeed to Inchmartine. Near to Errol is Port Allen, now completely silted up but a thriving port in the early-19th century, which presumably took its name from the family. John Allen also owned a house in St Andrews Square in Edinburgh and the boys may have been born there. The boys' father was dead by 1793 when the elder boy was granted sasine of Errol. He remained proprietor of Errol until 1846, when he was succeeded by his eldest son, John James Allen.

Sir Evan Murray-MacGregor (1797-98)

This Ramsey portrait is shows Sir Evan Murray-MacGregor of Lanrick (1785-1841), Chief of Clan Gregor, as a boy. It is a full-length portrait wwith a sort of misty, wooded backgrond. There is none of the animation we often see in Raeburn's child work. We suspect that Evan's father wanted a more formal, less boyish depiction appropriate for a clan chief. Evan wears a ttan skeleton suit, the only such example we have ever seen. In fact, the portrait of Evan is the only depiction of a Scottish boy in what might be called Scottish nationl dress because of the tartan. The Scottish revival was only beginning in the Regency period. Sir Evan was the 19th Chief of Clan Gregor and 2nd Baronet. His high bear cap perhaps signaleda military career and he reached the rank of major general. He married (28 May 1808), Lady Elizabeth Murray (1808), daughter of John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl). He was a colonial administrator and served as Governor of Dominica, Antigua, Barbados and Trinidad

The Binning children (!811)

Here we se shows two brothers wearing matching skeleton suits, the Binning children. While we know their names, we do not yet know much about the family and the boys. Painted for the sitters' father, David Monro Binning [1776-1843], Argaty and Softlaw, Perthshire, Scotland; by inheritance to the elder son in the picture, George Home Monro Binning (1804-84). The boys wear skeleton suits with long pants that were the height of fashion in the 1810s. The jackets have an unsual three columns of buttons athr than the more common two rows foe double brasted styling. In this case they appear to be purly ornamental. Even the ener row does not seem to be closing devices. The material of the suit appears to be velvet. Iit is interesting to note that boys are almost always painted in skeleton suits during the early 19th century. Notice how short hair styles are the norm for boys. The colors do not look right to us. We expected a bright red. We hve, hwever, seen this colr in other period images. We are not sure if this is an actual color or represents color shifts as a result of aging. Some versions showdraber suits than the one here.

Henry Raeburn Inglis - Boy with rabbit (1816)

Raeburn initially submitted a self-portrait as his diploma work for the Royal Accademy but the Council as a standing polict did not allow self-portraits for Diploma Works and refused the sunmission. We are unsure why all this occurred so late in Raeburn's career. Perhaps because his career was so stringly done in Scotland. After the refusal, he chose 'Boy with rabbit' as a replacement submission (1816). The boy is Henry Raeburn Inglis who was the son of Raeburn's stepdaughter, Ann Leslie. The boy is kneeling as he ptotectively cradeling his pet which is munching on dandelion leaves. The setting is informal and relaxed which we have noted in other Raeburn portraits of children. One art expert suggesrs that the background would have been more 'restrained' had it been a commisioned rther than a family portrait. Henry wears an opem, ruffeled blouse and long trousers. The confortable open blouse is remarkable for the low cut. The ruffles are common for early 19th century outfits. Note the boy's short hair. He wears a floppy beret-like head gear, that is one of the earliest tams we have noted. The outfit looks like a skeleton suit outfit. It looks like he may be wearing a blouse without a jacket, but he may have a jacket that matches the pants. I'm not sure what the material was. The portrait has been described as a 'virtuoso handling of paint', especially the treatment of the blouse.

The Regency/Empire Style

Raeburn's creer dovetails nicely if not precisely with the Refency/Empire era. This it it is a good source of information on the dashions of the era in Britain, especially Scotland. Raeburn did some work in England, but most of his portraits or Scottish. Thus his body of work is a wonderful repositiry of Regency styles. And because he painted many children especially valuable for HBC. It is a very importnt source of information for thos important era before the jnvention of photography.

Sources









HBC










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Created: October 10, 1999
Last updated: 11:15 PM 1/15/2018