Archibald Skirving

Margaret Sym, Mrs John Wilson, 1753 - 1824. Mother of Professor John Wilson (about 1797)

About this artwork

Mrs Wilson is shown wearing black, in mourning after the death of her husband, a Paisley gauze manufacturer. Grief might explain her watery eyes, but her faraway expression might simply be the artist faithfully recording the effect of the sitter's glass eye (her left?). This is one of Skirving's most sensitive and accomplished pastel portraits, with beautifully observed detail and a real sense of character. The Wilsons had ten children, one of whom was the famous author and philsopher, Professor John Wilson, who wrote under the name 'Christopher North'.

  • title: Margaret Sym, Mrs John Wilson, 1753 - 1824. Mother of Professor John Wilson
  • accession number: PG 2613
  • artist: Archibald SkirvingScottish (1749 - 1819)
  • depicted: Margaret Sym
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • subject: Families
  • materials: Pastel on paper
  • date created: about 1797
  • measurements: 68.50 x 56.00 cm (framed: 88.50 x 75.00 x 8.00 cm)
  • credit line: Presented by Miss Marjorie A. Wilson 1984
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

Archibald Skirving

Archibald Skirving

Skirving was born near Haddington, East Lothian. After being educated locally, he began work as a junior clerk at the Customs Office in Edinburgh. It is thought that Skirving also studied at the Trustees' Academy in the city at the same time, while painting miniatures at night. By the end of 1777 Skirving decided to move to London to work as a professional artist. After some success, he returned to Edinburgh in the mid 1780s before spending seven working in Rome from 1787.