Ramsay, Allan

, son of the preceding, and a distinguished portrait-painter, was born at Edinburgh in 1709, and having devoted himself to painting, went at an early period to study in Italy, where he received some instructions from Solimene, and Imperiali, two artists of great celebrity there. After his return he practised for some time in Edinburgh, but chiefly in London, and acquired a considerable degree of reputation in his profession, and much esteem from all who knew him, as a scholar and a gentleman. By the interest of lord Bute, he was introduced to his present majesty, when prince of Wales, whose portrait he painted both at whole length, and in profile, and both were engraved, the former by the unhappy Ryland, and the latter by Woollett. There are also several jnezzotinto prints after pictures which he painted of some of the principal personages among his countrymen. He practised with success for many years, and, a,t the death of Mr. Shalcelton, in March 1767 was appointed principal painter to the crown, a situation which he retained till his death, though he retired from practice about eight years after his appointment. He visited Rome at four different times, “smit,” as Mr. Fuseli says, “with the love of classic lore, to trace, on dubious vestiges, the haunts of ancient genius and learning.” On his return from his last visit to Italy, in which he was accompanied by his son, the present majorgenral Ramsay, he died a few days after landing at Dover, August 10, 1784.

Mr. Ramsay’s portraits possess a calm representation of nature, that much exceeds the mannered affectation of squareness, which prevailed among his contemporary artists; and it may justly be allowed, that he was among the first of those who contributed to improve the degenerate style of portrait painting. Walpole says, “Reynolds and Ramsay have wanted subjects, not genius.” Mons. | Rouquet, in his pamphlet, entitled “The present state of the Arts in England,” published in 1755, mentions Mr. Ramsay as “an able painter, who, acknowledging no other guide than nature, brought a rational taste of resemblance with him from Italy; he shewed even in his portraits, that just, steady spirit, which he so agreeably displays in his conversation.” He was a man of much literary taste, and was the founder of the “Select Society” of Edinburgh in 1754, to which all the eminently learned men of that city belonged, he wrote himself some ingenious pieces- on controverted topics of history, politics, and criticism, published under the title of “Investigator.” He wrote also a pamphlet on the subject of Elizabeth Canning, which attracted much, attention at the time, and was the means of opening the eyes of the public, and even of the judges, to the real truth and explanation of that mysterious event. Mr. Ramsay was a good Latin, French, and Italian scholar, and, like Cato, learned Greek in his old age. He is frequently mentioned by Boswell, as being of Dr. Johnson’s parties, who said of him, “You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance than in Ramsay’s.1

1 Eflwarrls’s Continuation of Walpole’s Anecdotes. Pilkington, by Fuseli. T5‘tlei’^ Life of Kanie.s. Bosweli’s Life of Johnson.