Alexander Nasmyth

Robert Burns, 1759 - 1796. Poet. (With Alexander Nasmyth, 1758 - 1840. Artist. At Rosslyn Castle) (1786)

About this artwork

This sketch shows the Scottish poet, Robert Burns (identified in the drawing by the pencilled initials ‘R.B.’), as a tiny figure under the entrance archway to Rosslyn Castle. To the left, on the sloping bank, stands another figure apparently sketching. This figure is initialled ‘A.N.’ and is undoubtedly the artist. This is a lively sketch, however there is some uncertainty surrounding the date it was made. The notation to the bottom left dates the work as the 13th June 1786, yet it is apparent that the inscription has been touched up. Also Burns’s letters show he was in fact on Mossgiel Farm on that day. The reasons behind this change are unknown but it was perhaps done by Nasmyth’s son, James.

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.