Sholto Johnstone Douglas


Robert Sholto Johnstone Douglas (3 December 1871 – 10 March 1958), known as Sholto Douglas, or more formally as Sholto Johnstone Douglas, was a Scottish figurative artist, a painter chiefly of portraits and landscapes.


He was born in Edinburgh, a member of the Queensberry family, part of the Clan Douglas. He was the son of A. H. Johnstone Douglas DL JP of Lockerbie (1846–1923) and his wife Jane Maitland Stewart, and the grandson of Robert Johnstone Douglas of Lockerbie, himself the son of Henry Alexander Douglas, a brother of the sixth and seventh Marquesses of Queensberry. His paternal grandmother, Lady Jane Douglas (1811–1881), was herself a daughter of Charles Douglas, 6th Marquess of Queensberry, so she was her husband's first cousin. Douglas's third cousin and contemporary John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry (1844–1900) was famous for the rules of the sport of boxing. Another cousin was Lady Florence Dixie, the war correspondent and big game hunter.

Douglas studied art in London, at the Slade School of Fine Art and also in Paris and Antwerp.

Douglas's cousin Lord Alfred Douglas, or 'Bosie', was a close friend of the writer Oscar Wilde. When Wilde sued Bosie's father for libel when accused of "posing as a somdomite" (sic), this led to Wilde's downfall and imprisonment. In 1895, when during his trial Wilde was released on bail, Sholto Johnstone Douglas stood surety for £500 of the bail money.

In his Noel Coward: A Biography (1996), Philip Hoare writes of "...late nineteenth-century enthusiasts of boy-love; writers, artists and Catholic converts inclined to intellectual paedophilia, among them Wilde, Frederick Rolfe, Sholto Douglas and Lord Alfred Douglas."

He was at home in Scotland as a painter and as a sportsman, shooting, riding and sailing. He kept ponies brought back from a visit to Iceland. He came to attention at the Royal Academy by being the first artist to hang a painting there of a motor car, but was best known for his portraits and his Scottish landscapes, which "...portrayed, with a truly poetic sense of atmosphere, the subtle half-tones of his native countryside".

In 1897, Douglas visited Australia and New Zealand. His uncle John Douglas, a former Premier of Queensland and Governor of New Guinea, arranged for the author R. W. Semon to take Douglas with him on a visit to New Guinea. Semon wrote "This young Scotsman was just then staying with his uncle on Thursday Island, being on his way back to Europe after a voyage to Australia and New Zealand."

The Times newspaper in March 1958: "He was also a man who, in human terms, led a long life notable for its unassuming expression of civilized values. As a portrait painter he may be said to have belonged to the period of Sargent. But his vision and style were his own. Incidentally, he made Royal Academy history by introducing for the first time a motor car to its walls. But his enduring works will perhaps be his landscapes.....they portrayed, with a truly poetic sense of atmosphere, the subtle half-tones of his native countryside...with its tenuous greys and blues. Here in Scotland he was at home, not merely as a painter but as a sportsman, going out after geese, sailing his home-made sand-yacht at frightening speeds over the Merse, riding on horseback over the Lowland country, and looking after the ponies which he brought back with him from a trip to Iceland."


On 19 April 1913, Douglas married Bettina, the daughter of Harman Grisewood, of Daylesford. They had one son and one daughter, Robert Arthur Sholto Johnstone-Douglas (born 4 February 1914) and Elizabeth Gwendolen Teresa Johnstone-Douglas (born 2 June 1916).

Douglas's daughter Elizabeth married, firstly, in 1954, William Craven, 6th Earl of Craven, and became the mother of Thomas, 7th Earl of Craven (1957–1983), Simon, 8th Earl of Craven (1961–1990), and Lady Ann Mary Elizabeth Craven (born 1959); and the grandmother of Benjamin Craven, 9th Earl of Craven (born 1989).


1.  A cup was sold at auction in November 2014 bearing the Douglas coat of arms. The seller attributed it to 'FROM THE ESTATE OF DOUGLAS SHOLTO (THE CRAVEN FAMILY)'. This seems the most likely connection, and may have been disposed of when the Craven estate at Hamstead Marshall was sold off after the death of the 7th Earl.

This page was last updated on 21 March 2018

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