Scougal, John (DNB00)

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SCOUGAL or SCOUGALL, JOHN (1645?–1730?), portrait-painter, is supposed to have been born in Leith about the middle of the seventeenth century, and to have been cousin of Patrick Scougal [q. v.], bishop of Aberdeen. The signature ‘Dd. Scougal’ appears upon a portrait dated 1654 at Newbattle Abbey, but this artist's relationship to John Scougall is undetermined. In 1670 Scougall painted a portrait of Sir Archibald Primrose, lord Carrington [q. v.], lord justice clerk, which now belongs to the Earl of Rosebery; and at Penicuik House there are two portraits which, from an entry in an old ‘Book of Accompts’ preserved in the Charter-room there, were paid for in November 1675. The entry is ‘To John Scougall for 2 pictures, 36l.’ Scougall lived at Advocates' Close, Edinburgh, in a house one of the floors of which he fitted up as a picture gallery. In 1698 he made the copy of George Heriot's portrait which hangs in the hospital from an original by Van Somer, now lost, and in 1708 a minute of the Glasgow town council confirmed the provost's purchase of full-length portraits of William III and Queen Mary from ‘Mr. Scowgall, Limner in Edinburgh.’ Four years later another minute ‘ordaines William Gow, the treasurer, to pay to John Scougall, elder, painter, fifteen pounds sterling money as the pryce of the picture of her majesty Queen Anne painted and furnished be him.’ Sir Daniel Wilson states that Scougall died at Prestonpans about 1730, aged 85 (Memorials of Old Edinburgh).

The two bust portraits at Penicuik are perhaps the finest of the authenticated portraits by Scougall, and show the influence of Vandyck in handling and colour. A portrait of John Scougall by himself is in the Scottish National Gallery.

Many inferior examples, influenced in style by Lely, are attributed to Scougall, and it is usually thought that there were two painters of the name. All the information we possess about the second, usually spoken of as the ‘younger Scougall,’ seems to be derived from one source, an article (said to be by the painter, Sir George Chalmers [q. v.]) which appeared in the ‘Weekly Magazine’ on 16 Jan. 1772. The writer says ‘the elder Scougal had a son George, whom he bred a painter. For some time after the revolution painters were few. The younger Scougal was the only one whose great run of business brought him into an incorrect stiff manner, void of expression. His carelessness occasioned many complaints by his employers; but he gave for answer that they might seek others, well knowing that there was none to be found at that time in Scotland.’ Portraits at Riccarton House and elsewhere attributed to the younger Scougall are certainly inferior to those at Penicuik, but beyond this and the article referred to there is nothing to go by.

[Weekly Magazine, Edinburgh, 1772; Smith's Iconographia Scotica, 1798; Wilson's Memorials of Old Edinburgh; Gray's Notes on Newbattle and Penicuik; Redgrave's and Bryan's Dictionaries; Catalogues: Scottish National Gallery, Glasgow Corporation Gallery, R.S.A. Loan Exhibition, 1863, Scottish National Portraits, 1884.]

J. L. C.