About this artwork

This sketch is identifiable as a preparatory study for a larger painting of Robert Burns by Nasmyth (also in the National Galleries of Scotland’s collection) by the inscription to the bottom right: ‘Sketch for a Picture of Robt. Burns’. There are also distinct compositional similarities. Both feature the famous Scottish bard standing full-length with his arms folded across his chest. However, unlike the finished painting, it includes both the Bridge of Doon and Alloway Kirk in the background. The ‘Auld Brig o' Doon’ was made famous by Burns in his poem 'Tam o' Shanter’. This sketch can be dated as between 1825 and 1828 due to a watermark of 1825 on the paper and the fact that the oil painting was completed in 1828.

Alexander Nasmyth

Alexander Nasmyth

Nasmyth's impressive landscapes are his most significant contribution to painting in Scotland. One of his most famous works, however, is the portrait of his friend, the poet Robert Burns. Nasmyth, a pupil of Runciman, was assistant to Allan Ramsay and developed a sound appreciation of the importance of drawing to educate the artist's eye and hand. His interest in landscape painting stimulated his involvement with landscaping projects, including the layout of the grounds of Inveraray Castle. He was also an accomplished engineer, designing and building several bridges, and an influential teacher, inspiring many younger artists including his own children.