About this artwork

Both Brown and Runciman were born in Edinburgh and became close friends. They both made extended visits to Italy and emerged as talented artists. In this large drawing, Brown represents his friend close up, turning his head to the right in a three-quarters profile and resting his chin on his crossed hands, which are in turn shown leaning on a table. The face and hands are strongly lit with the rest of the composition more heavily shadowed. Brown shows his friend in a contemplative mood but also marked by inspiration, as Runciman looks upwards intently. The portrait may be understood as a mediation on the nature of artistic friendship. On the back of the drawing is a pen and ink sketch of Brown by Runciman.

John Brown

John Brown

Edinburgh-born Brown was the son of a jeweller and watchmaker and studied at the Trustees' Academy. He was in Italy from 1771 to 1780, working alongside Alexander Runciman and Henry Fuseli. Although influenced by his friends' romantic reaction to the past, Brown did not produce large narrative paintings, instead, he drew accurate views of Roman antiquities and Italian scenery for his Scottish patrons. When he returned to Britain he specialised in pencil miniature portraits, sittings for which took one hour.