Alexander Nasmyth Scotland
9-9-1758 Edinburgh, SCO – 4-10-1840 Edinburgh, SCOBack to Artist IndexView Artists Paintings
Alexander Nasmyth studied at the Royal High School and the Trustees’ Academy and was apprenticed to a coach builder. Aged sixteen, he was taken to London by portrait painter Allan Ramsay where he worked on subordinate parts of Ramsay's works. Alexander Nasmyth returned to Edinburgh in 1778, where he worked as a portrait painter. Offered a loan by Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, Nasmyth left in 1782 for Italy, where he remained two years furthering his studies. In Italy he devoted most of his attention to landscape painting, and is recorded as having copied a work by Claude Lorrain.
Alexander Nasmyth returned to Scotland where for the next few years he continued his career as a portraitist. He painted some works in the style of Ramsay, but most were conversation pieces with outdoor settings. His portrait of Robert Burns, who became a close friend, is now in the Scottish National Gallery. Eventually, Nasmyth’s strong Liberal opinions offended many of his aristocratic patrons in a politically charged Edinburgh, leading to a falling off in commissions for portraits, and in 1792 he completely abandoned the genre, turning instead to landscape painting.
His landscapes are all of actual places, and architecture is usually an important element. Some works were painted to illustrate the effects that new buildings would have on an area, such as Inverary from the Sea, painted for the Duke of Argyll to show the setting a proposed lighthouse.
Alexander Nasmyth's six daughters all became artists. His eldest son, Patrick Nasmyth, studied under his father, then went to London and attracted attention as a landscapist. Another son, James Nasmyth, invented the steam hammer.
Art Movement: Romanticism
Influences: Allan Ramsay
Influenced: David Wilkie, David Roberts, Clarkson Stanfield, John Thomson