The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
In what was probably meant as praise, but which has about it an aura
of condescension, however faint, Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823) has been called
the "Scottish Lawrence" and the "Scottish Reynolds," after the English portrait
painters, Sir Thomas and Sir Joshua, respectively. More than likely Sir Henry
would have liked to be known simply as Sir Henry, Scotland's greatest painter
during Edinburgh's greatest age.
He was born in Stockbridge, near Edinburgh, to Robert Raeburn, a wool
boiler, and Ann Elder, and by age seven, the young Henry had been orphaned.
His education was taken up by George Heriot's Hospital, a school for the orphaned
children of Scottish tradesmen. When he was sixteen he was apprenticed to
a jeweler, where he learned not only to make jewelry but also to paint miniatures.
Exactly when he decided to commit himself to a career in painting is not known,
but he is believed to be largely self-taught. In 1784, now 28, he went to
Rome where he remained for about three years. Whether he adopted anything
from his study of the masters there is not evident in his work, but a brief
stay in Sir Joshua Reynold's studio in London did leave its mark. Back in
Edinburgh by 1787, Raeburn established a portrait studio on George Street.
His success was almost immediate. He also became Miniaturist to the Queen
in Scotland. Meanwhile, at age 24, Raeburn had married Ann Leslie, a 36-year
old widow of means; the couple had two sons.
Southgate MT. John Tait and His Grandson. JAMA. 2000;284(19):2420. doi:10.1001/jama.284.19.2420