David Allan

The Connoisseurs: John Caw (died 1784), John Bonar (1747 - 1807) and James Bruce (1783)

About this artwork

David Allan specialised in small-scale group portraits, called 'conversation pieces', which showed people, usually families, in contemporary and informal settings. Here, his subject is three friends, depicted as 'connoisseurs', that is, as knowledgeable and appreciative of the fine arts. John Caw holds up an engraving after a painting by Raphael of St John the Baptist, which his companions discuss. The small portrait of the wall behind them may be an absent, or even a deceased, friend.

  • title: The Connoisseurs: John Caw (died 1784), John Bonar (1747 - 1807) and James Bruce
  • accession number: NG 2260
  • artist: David AllanScottish (1744 - 1796)
  • depicted: James Bruce
  • gallery: On Loan
  • object type: Painting
  • subject: Interior
  • medium: Oil on canvas
  • date created: 1783
  • measurements: 87.50 x 101.90 cm (framed: 106.50 x 117.60 x 9.00 cm)
  • credit line: Purchased 1963
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

David Allan

David Allan

Allan was born in Alloa, on the Firth of Forth, and attended the Foulis Academy in Glasgow for seven years. In 1767 he moved to Rome, where he lived for ten years; this was the most successful period of his life. In Rome Allan painted ambitious historical pictures, portraits, caricatures and genre scenes. On returning to London in 1777, he spent two years trying to establish himself. Unsuccessful and ill, he returned to Scotland where he specialised in painting family groups. He also produced book illustrations and was appointed master of the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh.