Sir Henry Raeburn

Alexander Adam, 1741 - 1809. Rector of the Royal High School, Edinburgh (About 1805)

About this artwork

Adam was a classical scholar and educational reformer. His family were tenant farmers in Morayshire, and he walked 150 miles from there to Edinburgh, aged seventeen, to attend logic classes at the university. Augmenting his interest in education, in 1763 he was appointed Rector of Edinburgh High School. Adam was a popular teacher, and his pupils included Sir Walter Scott, the critic Lord Francis Jeffery, Lord Chancellor Henry Brougham and the MP Francis Horner. In around 1805, fourteen former pupils commissioned Raeburn to paint Adam’s portrait, which they presented to the High School. When he died, his obituary referred to this portrait, stating that Raeburn had painted “an excellent likeness of the worthy rector, who is represented in the act of teaching his pupils”.

  • title: Alexander Adam, 1741 - 1809. Rector of the Royal High School, Edinburgh
  • accession number: PG 2038
  • artist: Sir Henry RaeburnScottish (1756 - 1823)
  • depicted: Alexander Adam
  • gallery: Scottish National Portrait Gallery(On Display)
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Education
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: About 1805
  • measurements: 127.00 x 101.60 cm (framed: 161.50 x 136.00 x 15.50 cm)
  • credit line: Given by the sitter's surviving pupils to the National Gallery of Scotland; transferred 1964
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Sir Henry Raeburn

Sir Henry Raeburn

Originally apprenticed to a goldsmith, Henry Raeburn showed enormous artistic talent as a young man. In 1784 he moved to London where he met the important portrait painter Joshua Reynolds. He spent some time in Italy but returned to Edinburgh in 1787 where he began painting portraits of the rich, famous and important people of his day. He was in constant demand and received many honours: in 1822 he was knighted when the King visited Edinburgh. Sir Henry Raeburn died a year later.