Olga's Gallery

Allan Ramsay Biography

Allan Ramsay Portrait

Allan Ramsay (1713 - 1784) was a Scottish-born painter, who became one of the most prominent British portraitists of the 18th Century.

He was the eldest son of the famous poet and historian Allan Ramsay (1685-1758). His training as a painter began in London under the Swedish portraitist Hans Hysing. In 1736, he went on a long voyage to Italy, as was customary for artists of the time, to study the Renaissance art available there.

Ramsay returned to Britain c. 1738, and opened up a studio in Edinburgh. He quickly made a name for himself with the local nobility, which enabled him to move to London in 1739. There, he married his first wife, Anne Bayne. Unfortunately, their marriage was short-lived, with Anne Ramsay dying in childbirth in 1743. None of their 3 children survived childhood.

Ramsay's style combined simplicity with sensitivity, foreshadowing the work of such painters as Joshua Reynolds. He was especially noted for his portraits of women.

In 1752, the painter eloped with Margaret Lindsay, one of his pupils and the daughter of the Baronet of Evelick, and thus above Ramsay's station. Her father was extremely unhappy with this match, but could do little about the matter, and the marriage ultimately proved happy and long-lived. The couple had 3 children.

The painter spent the years 1754-1757 in Italy, where he used the opportunity to study the country's art and history.

In 1757, upon his return to Britain, Ramsay painted his first portrait of George III, then Prince of Wales. This was a huge career breakthrough for the artist, and Ramsay was flooded with commissions, including royal ones. In 1762, he was appointed the official portrait painter to George III.

After 1767, Ramsay's artistic output waned. Though he received a generous and steady income, the style of portraiture required for the royal family did not give him the opportunity to showcase the kind of brilliance he brought to more casual, intimate portraits. He also lacked the energy that he had possessed as a younger man, and many of his works from this time were finished by his assistants.

In 1773, he dislocated his arm, which further interfered with his ability to paint. He turned to literary pursuits.

The death of Margaret in 1782 was devastating to the painter. He died only two years later, in 1784.


The Life and Art of Allan Ramsay by A. Smart. London. 1952.

Painting of Europe. XIII-XX centuries. Encyclopedic Dictionary. Moscow. Iskusstvo. 1999.