Geikie, Walter (DNB00)

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GEIKIE, WALTER (1795–1837), painter and draughtsman, son of Archibald Geikie, a perfumer, was born in Charles Street, George Square, Edinburgh, on 9 Nov. 1795. A nervous fever, which attacked him before he was two years old, left him deaf and dumb for life. His father gave him his earliest education, and afterwards placed him under Thomas Braidwood [q. v.], a successful teacher of the deaf and dumb, with whom he made rapid progress. His path in life was soon indicated by his passion for sketching. Accordingly at the age of fourteen he began to learn drawing from Patrick Gibson, and in 1812 was admitted a student of the Trustees' Academy, of which John Graham was then master. He took to painting in oil with great enthusiasm, but without much success. He began to exhibit in 1815, and contributed largely to the Royal Scottish Academy from its first exhibition in 1827. He was elected an associate of that body in 1831, and an academician in 1834. Most of his pictures are deficient in colour, but those in which he confined himself to groups of figures are less objectionable than his landscapes. There is one, a ‘Cottage Scene, with figures,’ in the National Gallery of Scotland; but his best paintings are a ‘Scene in the Grassmarket,’ 1828, ‘All-Hallow Fair,’ 1829, and ‘Itinerant Fiddlers,’ painted for the Earl of Hopetoun, and now at Hopetoun House, Linlithgowshire. His reputation rests chiefly on his clever sketches and etchings of everyday scenes in and around his native city, which he sought assiduously sketch-book in hand. These are executed with a spirit and dexterity which well convey the humour of the subjects. His first etching was that of ‘John Barleycorn,’ which was executed as a tail-piece to the ballad in David Laing's ‘Fugitive Scottish Poetry,’ 1825. He afterwards etched several other plates for the works of the Bannatyne Club. The first fourteen plates which he etched on his own account were published by himself, but others were sold to publishers, and the whole were eventually collected into a volume of ‘Etchings illustrative of Scottish Character and Scenery,’ with explanatory text, and a biographical introduction by Sir Thomas Dick Lauder, and published in 1833. They were republished with additional plates in 1885. Although deaf and dumb, Geikie possessed great social qualities, and his mirthful spirit and love of mimicry made him a great favourite among his brother artists. He died at Edinburgh, after a few days' illness, on 1 Aug. 1837, and was buried in the Greyfriars' churchyard. He left an immense collection of sketches in pencil and Indian ink, the greater number of which passed into the hands of Mr. James Gibson Craig and Mr. Bindon Blood.

[Sir Thomas Dick Lauder's Biographical Introduction to Geikie's Etchings illustrative of Scottish Character and Scenery, 1833; Chambers's Biog. Dict. of Eminent Scotsmen, 1875, ii. 95; Armstrong's Scottish Painters, 1888, p. 20; Exhibition Catalogues of the Royal Scottish Academy, 1827–37.]

R. E. G.