About this artwork

Ramsay's sensitive handling of pastel is evident in this mature self- portrait. He appears to have just turned round as though something to the left has caught his attention. Pastel was an ideal medium for describing the nuances of light and shadow contributing to the energetic character of the artist's face. Touches of pale blue in the shadows are echoed in his jacket and in the subtle colouring of the neutral background. Ramsay was influenced by the pastel technique of contemporary French artists like Quentin de la Tour, but was also dedicated to a natural style of portraiture based on direct observation.

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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.