Sir Henry Raeburn (British, Stockbridge, Scotland 1756–1823 Edinburgh, Scotland)
Oil on canvas
30 x 24 7/8 in. (76.2 x 63.2 cm)
Gift of Arthur H. Hearn, 1896
Not on view
William Forsyth was a merchant from Aberdeen. He married Mary Rannie (1756–1826) in 1777 and they had four children: Margaret, born in 1779 and later Mrs. William Smith; James, born in 1781; William, born in 1783; and Thomas, born in 1789. The family lived in Nova Scotia from 1784 until 1800, when they returned to Scotland and settled at Greenock, near Glasgow. Both parents sat for Raeburn shortly after their return, and there are two versions of each portrait. The Museum's painting and its pendant (location unknown) may have belonged to the Forsyths' daughter, Margaret. The other pair descended together in the family through the Forsyths' son Thomas until after 1953; subsequently the portrait of William belonged to Mrs. Ivan (Griselda Todhunter) Hills, Polesden Lacy, and the portrait of his wife belonged to Ursula Todhunter.
The Museum owns a copy of an unpublished memoir written by the sitter.
[2010; adapted from Baetjer 2009]
[Tooth, London; sold to Hearn]; Arthur H. Hearn, New York (until 1896)
James Greig. Sir Henry Raeburn, R.A.: His Life and Works. London, 1911, p. 45, identifies this portrait from the G. F. Hearn gift as William Forsyth, the horticulturist.
"Museum Raeburn may be replica." Globe (October 11, 1911), quotes Mrs. G. C. Ashton Jonson, a member of the sitter's family, who believes it to be an autograph replica of the portrait belonging to Mrs. William Henniker Forsyth, London.
"Current Art Notes: New Portraits by Raeburn." Connoisseur 32 (March 1912), p. 201, ill. p. 207, calls this portrait a replica, asserting that the Museum has confused the sitter with the horticulturist of the same name; dates the original shortly after 1800, observing that the companion portrait "seems to be of a later period".
P[ercy]. M[oore]. Turner. "Pictures of the English School in New York." Burlington Magazine 22 (February 1913), p. 270.
C. H. Collins Baker. British Painting. London, 1933, p. 283.
David Baxandall. Raeburn Bi-Centenary. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Scotland. Edinburgh, 1956, p. 29, calls it a replica.
David Baxandall. Letter to Margaretta Salinger. August 28, 1956, provides information about the pendant to the Museum's portrait, then belonging to Mrs. Evelyn Forsyth Gordon, London.
Harry D. Forsyth. Letter to Elizabeth E. Gardner. May 30, 1967, provides further biographical information and locates the other pair of Forsyth portraits.
Katharine Baetjer. British Paintings in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1575–1875. New York, 2009, pp. 164–66, no. 79, ill. (color).