GORDON, John Watson
(b. 1788, Edinburgh, d. 1864, Edinburgh)


Scottish painter (born John Watson). He initially trained for the army and subsequently studied with David Wilkie under John Graham (1754-1817) at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh. He also learnt painting from his uncle, George Watson (1767-1837), and from Henry Raeburn, a close family friend, some of whose works he copied. Early pictures depicted historical and religious subjects, but he later turned to portraiture, becoming, after Raeburn's death in 1823, the leading Edinburgh portrait painter. From 1826 he called himself Watson Gordon to distinguish himself from three other Edinburgh artists called Watson.

He executed numerous versions of his portrait of Sir Walter Scott, of which the original unfinished study, made in 1830, is in the National Gallery of Scotland, and painted most of the Scottish celebrities of his time. Indeed many distinguished Englishmen visited Edinburgh to be portrayed by his hand. His productions are full of character, reserve, and dignity, excellent as likenesses, and especially successful when they portray faces distinguished by intellect or by Scotch shrewdness.

He was one of the artists who were admitted members of the Scottish Academy in 1829, and he was represented in the exhibitions of that body from 1830 to 1865. In 1850 he was elected as President of the Academy, and shortly afterwards he was knighted. In 1851 he was elected a Royal Academician. and he exhibited in the Royal Academy from 1827 till his death.