Johnston, Alexander (1816-1891) (DNB00)

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JOHNSTON, ALEXANDER (1815–1891), painter, born at Edinburgh in 1815, was son of an architect, who placed him at the age of fifteen with a seal-engraver in that city. He was a student in the Trustees' Academy there from 1831 to 1834, when he came to London with an introduction to Sir David Wilkie. In accordance with Wilkie's recommendation he entered the schools of the Royal Academy under W. Hilton in 1836. While in Edinburgh he had chiefly devoted himself to portrait-painting, and he brought with him to London some portraits of Dr. Morison's family, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836 and 1837. In 1838 he exhibited there his first subject picture, ‘The Mother's Prayer,’ and sent his ‘Scotch Lovers’ to the Society of British Artists. In 1839 his picture of ‘The Mother's Grave’ at the Royal Academy attracted favourable notice, while ‘The Gentle Shepherd’ (1840) and ‘Sunday Morning’ (1841) (formerly in the Bicknell collection and engraved by F. Bromley) established his popularity. In 1841 he exhibited his first historical picture, ‘The Interview of the Regent Murray with Mary Queen of Scots,’ which was purchased by the Edinburgh Art Union. In later years he was a frequent contributor to all the principal exhibitions. ‘The Covenanter's Marriage’ (1842) was engraved by C. Lightfoot for ‘Gems of Modern Art.’ ‘A Scene from the Lady of the Lake’ obtained a premium of 50l. from the Liverpool Academy in 1849, and ‘Prince Charles's Introduction to Flora Macdonald after the Battle of Culloden’ was awarded by the Glasgow Art Union a premium which the painter declined. In 1845 Johnston exhibited ‘Archbishop Tillotson administering the Sacrament to Lord William Russell in the Tower,’ which was purchased by Mr. Vernon, formed part of ‘The Vernon Gallery,’ and is now in the National Gallery (engraved by T. L. Atkinson and C. H. Jeens). Johnston was still an exhibitor in 1884. He died at 21 Carlingford Road, Hampstead, after a short illness, on 2 Feb. 1891. His son, Douglas Johnston, a musician of some promise in Glasgow, predeceased him.

[Art Journal, 1857, p. 57; Ottley's Dict. of Recent and Living Painters; obituary notices.]

L. C.