Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Robertson, Andrew

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ROBERTSON, ANDREW (1777–1845), miniature-painter, born at Aberdeen on 14 Oct. 1777, was the youngest of the five sons of William Robertson of Drumnahoy and his wife Jean, daughter of Alexander Ross of Balnagowan. His brother Archibald [q. v.] is separately noticed; another brother Alexander, born at Aberdeen on 13 May 1772, studied miniature-painting in London under Samuel Shelley [q. v.], followed his brother Archibald to America, and died in 1841, leaving descendants.

Andrew was at first intended for the medical profession, and took a degree at Marischal College, Aberdeen. The support of his family devolving upon him, he adopted art as a profession, and after studying in Edinburgh under Alexander Nasmyth [q. v.], and for a short time under Sir Henry Raeburn [q. v.], he started practice in Aberdeen as a miniature-painter, adding to his income by painting scenery for local theatrical performances. His manner of miniature-painting was based upon instructions from his elder brother, Archibald. In June 1801 he came to London, and, securing the interest of William Hamilton, R.A., Sir Martin Archer Shee, P.R.A. [q. v.], and other noted painters, obtained admission to the schools of the Royal Academy. There his work quickly attracted notice. He first exhibited miniatures at the Royal Academy in 1802. Gaining the patronage of Benjamin West, P.R.A. [q. v.], he painted West's portrait in miniature, and had it engraved in mezzotint by G. Dawe. At this time the leading miniature-painters in London were Richard Cosway, R.A., and S. Shelley; and as Robertson's style of painting was entirely different from theirs, being of a more direct and academical nature, a large field was open to him, of which he took full advantage, and he rapidly became one of the leading miniature-painters of the day. His work was based on careful studies and copies made from works of great painters, and, if it lacked the delicate fancy and individuality of Cosway and Shelley, it possessed more solid quality and more direct honesty of purpose.

In December 1805 Robertson was appointed miniature-painter to H.R.H. the Duke of Sussex, and in February 1807 obtained the privilege of going to Windsor and painting portraits of the Prince of Wales and other members of the royal family. Robertson was in 1807 one of the founders and the first secretary of the short-lived society known as the Associated Artists in Watercolours. He became a leader among the Scottish residents in London. In 1803 he was one of the originators of an artists' corps of volunteers, and on their services being declined, he joined the volunteer corps of loyal North Britons under Lord Reay, and was appointed lieutenant on 3 Oct. 1803, with command of two rifle companies. In 1814–15 Robertson was one of the most active promoters of the charitable scheme which resulted in the formation of the Caledonian Asylum in London. In 1815 he paid a long visit to Paris, where the works of art brought together by Napoleon were in course of dispersal. Robertson continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy and other exhibitions up to 1842. He had several eminent pupils, including Sir William Charles Ross [q. v.] He died at Hampstead on 6 Dec. 1845. He married the only daughter of Samuel Boxill of Waterford, Barbados, by whom he left a family. Several miniatures by Robertson were exhibited by his son, the late Samuel Boxill Robertson, at South Kensington in 1865, including portraits of Sir Francis Chantrey, Princess Amelia, Sir David Wilkie, and Archdeacon Coxe.

[Letters and Papers of Andrew Robertson, ed. by Emily Robertson; Redgrave's Dict. of Artists; Roget's Hist. of the ‘Old Watercolour’ Society; Catalogues of the Miniature Exhibition, 1865, the Royal Academy, and other Exhibitions; Graves's Dict. of Artists, 1760–1893.]

L. C.