William Bonnar

George Meikle Kemp, 1795 - 1844. Architect and designer of the Scott Monument (About 1840)

About this artwork

Kemp, who had originally trained as a carpenter, was one of the 54 entrants in the 1836 competition for a Walter Scott memorial in Edinburgh. Inspired by medieval ruins and Gothic architecture, he entered under the pseudonym of John Morvo, a name that appears as an inscription on Melrose Abbey and is thought to have been of a mason working on the building. The proposals earned him one of three prizes, and when the competition was rerun in 1838 Kemp won the commission. Initially controversial, his monument to Scott is a striking Gothic structure that dominates Princes street. Sadly, Kemp drowned in the Union Canal before the monument’s completion. His brother-in-law, William Bonnar, the artist of this portrait, supervised the building work until its conclusion.

  • title: George Meikle Kemp, 1795 - 1844. Architect and designer of the Scott Monument
  • accession number: PG 246
  • artist: William BonnarScottish (1800 - 1853)
  • depicted: George Meikle Kemp
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Walter Scott Engineering and construction
  • materials: Oil on panel
  • date created: About 1840
  • measurements: 34.30 x 28.00 cm (framed: 53.80 x 46.70 x 6.30 cm)
  • credit line: Given by Thomas Bonnar to the National Gallery of Scotland; transferred 1889
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

William Bonnar

William Bonnar

William Bonnar was born in Edinburgh, the son of a housepainter. At an early age he showed an aptitude for painting and was apprenticed to a leading decorative artist. In 1824 he exhibited for the first time as a professional artist; five years later he was elected a member of the Royal Scottish Academy, shortly after its foundation in 1828. Initially, Bonnar specialised in rural scenes and images of children but later on he concentrated on painting portraits, many of which were engraved by his sons. A popular and prolific artist, he painted a range of important sitters, including Thomas Chalmers, William Cunningham and John Blackie Senior.