Robert Thorburn is best known as a minaturist. He was born at Dumfries in Scotland (1818). He was the son of a tradesman and was educated at Dumfries High School. He developed a love of art at an early age. A neighbor lady took an interest in Robert. She afforded him the opportunity at the age of 15 years he was able to enter the Royal Scottish academy in Edinburgh (1833). He gained distinction there and 3 years later entered the Royal Academy in Lomdon (1836). Because of his Dumfries connection, he gaimed the patronage of the Duke of Buccleuch which helped him obtain many of his first commissions. While born in Scotland, his career is largely associated with England. He and Sir William Charles Ross were the most popular minaturists at the time with impressive society clinentel. Thornburn mostly painted on ivory. He received his first commission from Queen Victoria (1846). More followed including one with the Prince of Wales. We note a charming minatue with the Queen and Prince painted in medieval costume (1847). His minatures were a little larger than the standrd and often had backgrounds. Thornburn received a gold medal. Thornburn began his career at the precise time photograph was invented (1839) which gradually undermined the popularity of minatures. He turned to oil painting, but with only moderate success. We notice a portrait of the aging Duke of Wellington with his grandchidren (1852).
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