About this artwork

Hume, the eminent Scottish philosopher and historian, was a close friend of Ramsay and both were founder members of The Select Society a distinguished debating club in Edinburgh. He supported Ramsay's rejection of idealism in painting in favour of a more truthful and natural representation celebrated in this portrait. Hume rests his left arm informally on two books possibly alluding to his own publications such as his 'Treatise on Human Nature' and 'The History of England' as well as to his knowledge. One of the volumes is by the Roman historian Tacitus. The portrait was painted as a companion to Ramsay's portrait of Rousseau which is also in the collection.

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Allan Ramsay

Allan Ramsay

Ramsay, named after his father who was a poet, was internationally renowned for his outstanding portraits. He attended the new Academy of St Luke in Edinburgh and then continued his artistic education in Italy. He visited Rome, studying at the French Academy and Naples. British residents commissioned many portraits from him and as soon as he returned to London he established a successful studio. He also returned to Edinburgh regularly. King George III appointed him King's painter. As a gifted conversationalist and writer of essays, Ramsay pursued his scholarly interests when injury to his right arm in 1773 cut short his painting career.