John Alexander Gilfillan

Jean Armour, Mrs Robert Burns, 1765 - 1834. Wife of the poet Robert Burns (1822)

About this artwork

Jean Armour was the daughter of a stonemason in Mauchline, Ayrshire, where she met Robert Burns in 1784. When Jean fell pregnant Burns was reluctant to marry her but did apparently promise that he would stick by her. In September 1786 Jean gave birth to twins, but it was only after she had twins again in March 1788 that Burns married her. Jean bore Burns eight children and raised one by a mistress, but only three survived into adulthood. She had a very good memory and an aptitude for quoting verse. Burns read almost all his work to her, and admitted benefiting from her judgment. After the death of her husband, whom she outlived by nearly 38 years, Jean lived a modest but comfortable life in their last family home in Dumfries. It is from this period only that portraits of her exist.

  • title: Jean Armour, Mrs Robert Burns, 1765 - 1834. Wife of the poet Robert Burns
  • accession number: PG 809
  • artist: John Alexander GilfillanScottish (1793 - 1863)
  • depicted: Jean Armour
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Burns Families
  • materials: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1822
  • measurements: 74.90 x 62.30 cm (framed: 66.04 x 78.74 x 10.79 cm)
  • credit line: Bequeathed by Mrs McDiarmid 1912
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

John Alexander Gilfillan

John Alexander Gilfillan

Jersey-born artist John Alexander Gilfillan had the benefit of a thorough art training in Scotland, not least in anatomical drawing. He was Professor of Painting at the Andersonian University in Glasgow for eleven years before migrating to New Zealand in 1841. There, he painted portraits of Maori and made many sketches depicting life as experienced by the early European settlers. He was forced to leave in 1847 when his wife and three children were killed, and he and his eldest daughter were seriously injured by Maori during troubles in the area. He moved to Australia with his surviving children, where he worked up earlier sketches of Putiki Pah into an important watercolour which was later exhibited in London.