(b. 1713, Edinburgh, d. 1784, Dover)


Scottish portrait painter, active mainly in London. He was the outstanding portraitist there from about 1740 to the rise of Reynolds in the mid 1750s. Ramsay studied in London, in Rome, and in Naples (under Solimena), and when in 1739 he settled in London he brought a cosmopolitan air to British portrait painting. His portraits of women have a decidedly French grace (The Artist's Wife, National Gallery, Edinburgh, c. 1755) and in this field he continued to be a serious rival to Reynolds, who was upset when Ramsay was appointed Painter-in-Ordinary to George III in 1760.

Ramsay, however, gradually gave up painting during the 1760s to devote himself to his other interests. He was the son of Allan Ramsay, the poet, and inherited his father's literary bent. Political pamphleteering, classical archeology (he revisited Rome in 1754-57), and conversation took up much of his later years. He was successful in literary circles and Dr Samuel Johnson said of him: 'You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance.'

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