You are in the archive, click here to go back to the current festival


Bourne Fine Art

Five Centuries of Scottish Portraiture

30 July – 3 September 2011

David Allan, The Origin of Painting, c.1775, oil on canvas

The exhibition takes David Allan’s significant work, The Origin of Painting (c.1775), as its starting point. A depiction of Pliny the Elder’s famous story which traces the origins of the very first painting back to a Corinthian potter’s daughter who traced the silhouette her lover’s shadow cast against the wall, Adam’s painting (a second version of which is in the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland) asserts the centrality of portraiture to the history of art.


This festival show offers a rich overview of the development of portraiture in Scotland over the past 500 years, featuring significant examples of work by Ramsay, Raeburn and up to William Gillies and beyond. The earliest portraits featured, dated 1625, are by Adam de Colone, close relation of Adrian Vanson (court painter to James VI), and show the Earl and Countess of Wigton.


Highlights of the exhibition include Allan Ramsay’s Countess of Strafford (1739); an ambitious portrait of Charles Kerr of Calderbank (c.1794) by Ramsay’s pupil and assistant, David Martin; and Sir Henry Raeburn’s masterful portrait of Alexander Munro (c.1810), a bold study of the physical properties of light and the psychological properties of vision.


Work by successful society portrait artists Harrington Mann and W.O. Hutchison reveals how painting triumphed over competition from photography at the turn of the 20th century to remain the art form of choice for the rich and fashionable. While William Gillies’ 1925 picture of fellow artist Robert Scott Irvine, clearly influenced by the Cubist work he observed in Paris, demonstrates how portraiture has adapted to new innovations in art practice over the years.


Mon–Fri, 10am–6pm;

Sat, 11am–4pm or by appointment


Bourne Fine Art

6 Dundas Street, EH3 6HZ

0131 557 4050