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Ramsay, Allan

Ramsay, Allan (1713–84). Portrait painter, born in Edinburgh, son of the poet Allan Ramsay. He studied in Edinburgh, London, Rome, and Naples, settling in London in 1739 and quickly establishing himself as the leading portraitist of the capital. He was particularly successful in painting women. ‘Mr. Ramsay is formed to paint them,’ said Horace Walpole, and Ramsay was a serious rival to Reynolds. He became a favourite painter of the royal family and was appointed principal painter in ordinary to George III in 1767. His employment at court and his career as a portrait painter ended in 1773 when he suffered an accident to his right arm. The rest of his life was spent in travel, writing, and conversation. His friends included David Hume, for whom he painted Rousseau, Adam Smith, and Samuel Johnson, who said of him, ‘You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance, than in Ramsay's.’

June Cochrane

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Ramsay, Allan

Allan Ramsay, 1685?–1758, Scottish poet. An Edinburgh bookseller, he opened one of the first circulating libraries in Great Britain. The Gentle Shepherd (1725), a pastoral comedy, is his most famous poetic work. He compiled several collections of old Scottish poems and songs and is considered an important figure in the revival of Scottish vernacular poetry that culminated in the work of Robert Burns. His son, Allan Ramsay, 1713–84, was a noted portrait painter. After a successful career in Edinburgh he moved to London in 1767 and became principal painter to George III.

See biography of the elder Ramsay by O. Smeaton (1896); study by B. Martin (1931).

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Ramsay, Allan

Ramsay, Allan (1713–84) Scottish portrait painter. The Scottish counterpart of Thomas Gainsborough and Joshua Reynolds, Ramsay settled in London where, in 1760, he was appointed painter to George III in preference to his rival, Reynolds. His style, graceful and Italianate, lent itself especially well to female portraiture, such as The Artist's Wife (1755).

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