Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Nasmyth, Patrick

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

NASMYTH, PATRICK (1787–1831), landscape-painter, born in Edinburgh on 7 Jan. 1787, was the eldest son of Alexander Nasmyth [q. v.] the painter, and his wife Barbara Foulis. He early displayed a turn for art, and was fond of playing truant from school in order that he might wander in the fields and sketch the scenes and objects that surrounded him. He received his earliest instruction in art from his father, and studied with immense care and industry, painting with his left hand after his right had been incapacitated by an injury received while on a sketching expedition with the elder Nasmyth. He also suffered from deafness, the result of an illness produced by sleeping in a damp bed when he was about seventeen years of age. From 1808 to 1814 he exhibited his works in the rooms of the Society of Associated Artists, Edinburgh; and he contributed to the Royal Institution, Edinburgh, 1821–8, and to the Scottish Academy in 1830 and 1831. In 1808 he removed to London, but he did not exhibit in the Royal Academy till 1811 (compare catalogues), when he was represented by a ‘View of Loch Katrine,’ and he afterwards contributed at intervals till 1830. In 1824 he became a foundation member of the Society of British Artists, with whom, as also in the British Institution, he exhibited during the rest of his life. His earliest productions dealt chiefly with Scottish landscape, but in the neighbourhood of London he found homely rustic scenes better suited to his brush. He delighted to render nature in her humbler aspects, painting hedgerow subjects with great care and delicacy, his favourite tree being the dwarfed oak. He also closely studied the Dutch landscape-painters, and imitated their manner with such success that he has been styled ‘the English Hobbema,’ so precise and spirited is his touch, so brilliant are the skies that appear above the low-toned fields and foliage in his pictures. In all monetary matters he was singularly careless, and he seems to have fallen into habits of dissipation which undermined his constitution. While recovering from an attack of influenza he caught a chill as he was sketching a group of pollard willows on the Thames; and he died at Lambeth on 17 Aug. 1831, propped up in bed at his own request, that he might witness a thunderstorm that was then raging. He was buried in St. Mary's Church, where the Scottish artists in London erected a stone over his grave. Patrick Nasmyth is one of the characters ‘brought upon the scene as sketches from the life’ in John Burnet's ‘Progress of the Painter’ (London, 1854). Since his death the reputation of his works has greatly increased. One of the finest, ‘Haselmere,’ sold for 1,300 guineas at Christie's in 1892, and his ‘Turner's Hill, East Grinstead,’ realised 987l. at Christie's in 1886. He is represented in the National Gallery by five works, in the South Kensington Museum by three, and in the National Gallery of Scotland by one. His portrait, a chalk drawing by William Bewick, is in the National Portrait Gallery, London.

[James Nasmyth's Autobiography, London, 1883; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists, London, 1878; Anderson's Scottish Nation; Catalogues of Exhibitions, &c., mentioned above; Academy, 29 May 1886; Scotsman, 20 June 1892. His name is duly entered as ‘Patrick’ in the City of Edinburgh Baptism Register, 6 Feb. 1787, though he appears as ‘Peter Nasmyth’ in some of the catalogues of the Society of Associated Artists and of the Royal Institution of Edinburgh.]

J. M. G.