About this artwork

Blackwood was Scotland’s most successful publisher in the early nineteenth century. He was born in Edinburgh and at the age of fourteen began a six year apprenticeship to the booksellers Bell & Bradfute. Following further training in Glasgow and London, he opened his first shop on Edinburgh. Specialising in selling rare books the business was a success. In 1813 Blackwood became the agent for the printers of Sir Walter Scott’s novels. Four years later he founded the ‘Edinburgh Monthly Magazine’ as a Tory counterpart to the ‘Edinburgh Review’, which had Whig leanings. As editor from the seventh issue onwards the magazine became knows as ‘Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine’. This elegant portrait was painted by William Allan who was a good friend of Scott and painted subjects from his novels.

Sir William Allan

Sir William Allan

Born in Edinburgh, Allan was apprenticed to a coach painter before studying at the Trustees' Academy in the city from 1799; David Wilkie was a fellow student and became a lifelong friend. Allan went to London in 1803 to continue his studies, possibly at the Royal Academy. In 1805 he went to Russia, where he was based until 1814, travelling widely in the region. On his return, he settled in Edinburgh where he painted scenes inspired by his travels as well as subjects from Scottish history and Sir Walter Scott's novels. He was appointed Master of the Trustees' Academy in 1826, elected President of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1838 and became the Queen's Limner for Scotland in 1841, the year he was knighted.