Wilson, Andrew (1780-1848) (DNB00)

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WILSON, ANDREW (1780–1848), landscape-painter, born in Edinburgh in 1780, came of an old family who had suffered in the Jacobite cause. His father's name was Archibald Wilson, his mother's Elizabeth Shields. When quite young he commenced to study art under Alexander Nasmyth [q. v.], and then, at the age of seventeen, went to London, where he worked for some time in the schools of the Royal Academy. Proceeding to Italy, he studied the great works of the Italian masters, thus laying the foundation of a knowledge which afterwards proved of great use, and he became acquainted with the well-known collectors Champernown and Irving. He also made many sketches, principally of the architecture in the neighbourhood of Rome and Naples. Returning to London in 1803, he at once saw the advantage of importing pictures by the old masters, and went back to Italy for that purpose. The troubled state of Europe made travelling difficult, but he reached Genoa, where he settled under the protection of the American consul and was elected a member of the Ligurian Academy. As a member of that society he was present when Napoleon Bonaparte visited its exhibition, and on some envious academician informing the latter, who had paused to admire Wilson's picture, that it was by an Englishman, he was met by the retort: ‘Le talent n'a pas de pays.’ In 1805 he returned through Germany to London with the pictures (over fifty in number) which he had acquired. Among them were Rubens's ‘Brazen Serpent’ (now in the National Gallery) and Bassano's ‘Adoration of the Magi’ (in the Edinburgh Gallery).

Settling in London, he painted a good deal in watercolour, was one of the original members of the Associated Artists (1808), and held for a period the position of teacher of drawing in Sandhurst Military College; but being in 1818 appointed master of the Trustees' Academy, he removed to Edinburgh, where he exercised a considerable and beneficial influence upon his pupils, among whom were Robert Scott Lauder [q. v.], William Simson [q. v.], and David Octavius Hill [q. v.] While in London he contributed to the Royal Academy, and in Edinburgh he supported the Royal Institution, of which he was the manager as well as an artist associate member. But his predilection for Italy was too strong to be resisted, and in 1826, taking his wife and family with him, he again went south, and for the twenty years following lived in Rome, Florence, and Genoa. During this period he was much consulted on art matters, collected pictures for Lords Hopetoun and Pembroke, Sir Robert Peel, and others, and was instrumental in securing for the Royal Institution some of the most important works, which later helped to form the National Gallery of Scotland. He also painted much in both oil and watercolours, and his work, some of the finest of which never came to this country, was in great request by artistic visitors to Italy. His pictures are delicate in handling, refined in colour, pleasant in composition, and serene in effect. He is represented in the Scottish National Gallery by two Italian landscapes and a ‘View of Burntisland’ in oils, and by three watercolours in the watercolour collection at South Kensington. In 1847, leaving his family in Italy, he revisited Scotland, but, on the eve of returning, he died in Edinburgh on 27 Nov. 1848.

In 1808 he married Rachel Ker, daughter of William Ker, descendant of the Inglis of Manner, and had a family of four sons and three daughters. The eldest son, Charles Heath Wilson, is separately noticed.

[Edinburgh Annual Register, 1816; Catalogue of the Exhibition of Works by Scottish Artists, Edinburgh, 1863; Redgrave's and Bryan's Dictionaries; Armstrong's Scottish Painters, 1888; Brydall's Art in Scotland, 1889; Catalogues of Royal Institution, Edinburgh, Royal Academy, Scottish National Gallery, South Kensington; information from C. A. Wilson, esq., Genoa.]

J. L. C.