About this artwork

The philosopher Sir William Hamilton was briefly Professor of Civil History at the University of Edinburgh before concentrating on researching and writing. Hamilton was heavily influenced by German philosophy, especially the work of Immanuel Kant. He wrote influential articles for the pro-Whig Edinburgh Review magazine, which were later published as ‘Discussions in Philosophy, Literature and Education’. His famous book, ‘Lectures on Philosophy and Logic’, confirmed his position as a leading intellectual. John Ballantyne’s portrait shows a pensive-looking Hamilton holding his place in a book with one of his fingers, a standard pose for depicting a learned sitter.

John Ballantyne

John Ballantyne

Born in Kelso in the Scottish Borders, Ballantyne trained at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh under William Allan and Thomas Duncan, before studying in London, Paris and Rome. When he returned to Edinburgh in 1839, he established himself as a portrait and history painter. In 1848 he was appointed Headmaster of the Trustees' Academy. Ballantyne moved to London in 1863. He is best known for his seventeen canvases showing contemporary artists at work in their studios, painted in the early 1860s. Other paintings from this series are in the National Portrait Gallery, London and Aberdeen City Art Gallery.