Archibald Robertson was born at Monymusk, near Aberdeen, Scotland. After studying in Edinburgh and from 1786 in London, he worked again in Aberdeen. He went to the United States in 1791 and painted a miniature of George Washington which ensured his success. With his brother Alexander Robertson, also a miniature painter, he founded the Columbian Academy of Painting in New York. Andrew Robertson (see 1986.390
) was his younger brother. Sir Joshua Reynolds is said to have given him advice, and the miniature catalogued below is no doubt a product of Robertson's years in England or Scotland.
Archibald Robertson’s miniature must date between 1786 and 1791. It is copied from the 1773 half-length self-portrait by Reynolds in the collection of Earl Spencer at Althorp. The artist's costume is accounted for by the fact that he was given an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law at the University of Oxford that same year. The Met owns a second miniature copy after Reynolds's self-portrait in the style of William Grimaldi (62.122.60
). Versions by George Engleheart and James Nixon also exist (Robert Bayne-Powell, Catalogue of Portrait Miniatures in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge,
Cambridge, 1985, p. 160).
[2016; adapted from Reynolds and Baetjer 1996]