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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Family of Sir James Hunter Blair, 1st Baronet (1741–1787)

David Allan (British, Alloa, Scotland 1744–1796 Edinburgh)
ca. 1785
Sheet: 13 × 23 1/8 in. (33 × 58.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Brooke Russell Astor Bequest, 2013
Accession Number:
Not on view
Allan used watercolor and graphite to make this detailed study of a Scottish family in preparation for a large portrait in oil. Sir James Hunter Blair, his wife, and nine of their twelve children stroll through a landscape near Portpatrick in western Scotland, with Dunskey House, Wigtownshire, an estate gained through his wife’s inheritance, prominent in the background. This work, the first by Allan to enter the Museum’s collection, demonstrates how, after eight years in Italy, he adapted his training to the taste of his Edinburgh patrons. The friezelike arrangement of figures and the distinctive line of gamboling children recall classical precedents and reflect Allan’s interest in dance—he sketched tarantellas in Naples and Highland reels in Scotland. The combination of ancient and contemporary elements and deliberate naivete echo the innovations of English contemporaries such as George Stubbs.
Vendor: Peter Schweller
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," November 19, 2013–February 10, 2014.

Thomas Crouther Gordon David Allan of Alloa, 1744-1796: the Scottish Hogarth. 1951.

B. Skinner The Indefatigable Mr. Allan Ex. cat., Scottish Arts Council. 1973.

John Ingamells A Dictionary of British and Irish Travellers in Italy 1701–1800. Yale University Press, New Haven, 1997.

William Cosmo Monkhouse, Duncan MacMillan "Allan, David (1744–1796)" Oxford Dictionary of National Biograph. online edition 2006. 2004.

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