Sir Henry Raeburn

Robert Cunninghame Graham of Gartmore, d. 1797. Poet and politician (About 1794)

About this artwork

Robert Cunningham Graham, a poet and politician, was described by Robert Burns as the 'noblest instance of great talents, great fortune and great worth that ever I saw'. After university he travelled to Jamaica where he worked as a receiver-general of taxes and was a landowner and planter. Later, he was Member of Parliament for Stirlingshire, professing radical political views (despite having made a fortune from slave plantations) and supporting the French Revolution. Raeburn’s sympathetic portrait shows a contemplative Graham, surrounded by books, letters and writing equipment. Painted in the last years of Graham’s life, it reminds the viewer of his literary output, such as his popular romantic poem ‘If doughty deeds my lady please’, which was greatly admired by Burns.

Sir Henry Raeburn

Sir Henry Raeburn

Originally apprenticed to a goldsmith, Henry Raeburn showed enormous artistic talent as a young man. In 1784 he moved to London where he met the important portrait painter Joshua Reynolds. He spent some time in Italy but returned to Edinburgh in 1787 where he began painting portraits of the rich, famous and important people of his day. He was in constant demand and received many honours: in 1822 he was knighted when the King visited Edinburgh. Sir Henry Raeburn died a year later.