« AnteriorContinuar »
Allan's natural bent both to himself and others; and turned his attention to an art towards which he instantly found himself instinctively attracted. He took the 'chalk, and began to delineate figures, animals, houses, &c. as his fancy directed, and from that time it was seldom out of his hand.
After this, when he had been some time at school, and was about ten years old, his master happening somewhat ludicrously to exercise his authority over some of the scholars, he could not refrain from copying the group on his slate, and exhibiting it for the amusement of his companions. His master was an old man, short sighted, and extremely vain, who used to strut about the school dressed in a tartan night-cap, and long tartan gown, with the rod of correction, which he often applied very injudiciously, constantly in his hand.
Purblind however as he was, he got sight of Allan's picture, in which he made a most conspicuous, though not a flattering, figure. His wounded feelings were immediately transferred to the little humourist, and the chastisement he received was commensurate to his master's self. conceit, and the merit of the drawing. The resemblance was so severe, and the impression, made by the laugh it raised, sunk so deep, that the object of it remained unsatisfied till he had made a complaint to old Allan, and had the boy taken from his school. When questioned by his father how he had the effrontery to insult his master, by representing him so ridiculously on his slate? His answer was, “ I made it like him ; and I only did it for fun.”
The natural propensity ; the ruling passion prevailed. It was vain to attempt to turn aside, to smother, or extinguish the fire of genius. His father observed its irresistible direction; and wisely followed the course pointed out by nature as the only road by which his son could rise to eminence. Upon the 23d of February 1755, being then eleven years of age, he was bound an apprentice to the celebrated printers, Messrs Robert and Andrew Foulis, for seven years, to attend their painting academy in the university of Glasgow. In New-Hall House there is a sketch in oil colours by him whilst there, of the inside of the academy, with an exact portrait of Robert Foulis, the founder and conductor of it, criticising a large picture, and giving instructions to his principal painter about it. In this school engraving was taught, as well as painting, and drawing.
In the year 1764, some of his performances attracted the notice of the late Lord Cathcart; whose seat, Shaw Park, is situated in Clackmannanshire, near Alloa. Lady Cathcart introduced him to the notice of the late Lady Frances Erskine, Lady Charlotte Erskine, Mrs Abercromby of Tullybody, and some others in the neighbourhood, who proposed he should
go to Italy, to prosecute his studies more advantageously. He set out, furnished with letters of recommendation, and, amongst the rest, with one to Sir William Hamilton then in Naples; and also with letters of credit to support him whilst abroad. During his residence in Italy, Lady Cathcart wrote to -him frequently, with all the care, and affection of a mother.
In Italy he studied about eleven years, with unremitting application. In Rome, in 1773, and afterwards, he gained the prize medal given by the Academy of St Luke for the best specimen of historical composition. The two medals, one of gold, and the other of silver, are now in the possession of his widow in Edinburgh. Except Mr Gavin Hamilton of Murdostown in Lanarkshire, he was the only Scotsman that had ever been so distinguished by that academy.
On his return to Britain he resided about two years in London ; but, falling into a bad state of health, he was ordered home to Scotland, for a change of air. In 1786, soon after his arrival in Edinburgh, on the death, in 1775, of his distinguish
ed predecessor Alexander Runciman, he was appointed director and master of the academy established at Edinburgh by the Board of Trustees for ma. nufactures and improvements, for the purpose of diffusing a knowledge of the principles of the fine arts and elegance of design in the various manufactures and works which require to be figured and ornamented. This charge he retained the remainder of
Having, probably some time before, projected a new edition of The Gentle Shepherd; he, in autumn 1786, the same year in which he was made master of the academy in Edinburgh, paid his unexpected visit at New Hall, for the purpose of collecting figures, and copying the original scenes on the spot, , which had produced the pastoral comedy. He was accompanied by a friend, who had been a captain in the
army, of the name of Campbell, from Glencross house, whom he has complimented by introducing his likeness in the character of “ Sir William Wor. thy." All the other figures, being copied from individual nature, are likewise portraits. The out, and inside of “ Glaud's Onstead;" the Monks' Burn, and its loreer or middle lin; were all drawn on the side of that stream : and his designs for the “ Washing Green,” and “ Habbie's Hou," afterwards aquatinted for the second scene of the drama, were also
delineated from the “ howm” on the Esk behind New-Hall House,
“ Where lasses use to wash and spread their claiths,”
and from the “ little lin," between and the Carlops, which falls into the bason called Peggy's Pool, “farer up the burn" in nature, as in the pastoral, than the “ howm.”
Ramsay was realized by the publication of this edition in 1788 ; and on the 28th of October in the same year, this faithful painter of his scenes was married to Miss Shirley Welsh, the youngest daughter of Thomas Welsh, who was a carver and gilder in Edinburgh, but had withdrawn from business. By his wife he had five children ; three of whom were cut off by disease in their infancy.
He himself died of a dropsy, preceded by an asthma occasioned by his sedentary life, and close application to his business, on the 6th of August 1796, in the fifty-third year of his age; leaving behind him a widow with one son, David, and one daughter named Barbara Anne Allan. His son David Allan, a promising youth, was sent out a cadet to India in September last 1806.