The Family of Sir James Hunter Blair, 1st Baronet

David Allan British, Scottish
Sitter Sir James Hunter Blair, 1st Baronet British, Scottish

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.

The Family of Sir James Hunter Blair, 1st Baronet, David Allan (British, Alloa, Scotland 1744–1796 Edinburgh), Watercolor

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