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William Douglas


William DouglasWilliam Douglas held an appointment as Miniature Painter to HRH Princess Charlotte of Wales who, if she had not died shortly after her marriage, would have been Queen of England. He also painted for Prince Leopold, afterwards King of the Belgians.


 A descendant of the family of Douglas of Glenbervie, he was born at Torryburn, Fife, Scotland, 14 Apr 1780, and died in Edinburgh, 30 Jan 1832. His wife was Charlotte Grieve who he married on 7 Aug 1805.

He received a liberal education and showed an interest in painting at an early age. This led to his being placed as an apprentice to the engraver Robert Scott in Edinburgh, the engraver John Burnet being one of his fellow apprentices. However, he decided to specialize in miniature painting, generally producing miniatures in watercolour on ivory, but also full-length pencil drawings with the head often finished in watercolour, and oil paintings. His favoured subjects on a large scale were combined portraits of sitters and their animals, and his expertise at landscape painting meant that he often included extensive landscape backgrounds in both his drawings and oil paintings. Latterly he also painted miniatures of animal subjects alone. His work was usually signed, either with his initials W. D. and the date, or, in the case of his miniatures, in full on the reverse (for example, ‘W. Douglas Edinburgh Pinxt 1816’). He achieved considerable success in Scotland and England, exhibiting at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1808–9 and the Society of Associated Artists between 1808 and 1816. His patrons in Scotland included numerous members of the Edinburgh middle classes and members of the Scottish aristocracy such as the ninth earl of Dalhousie and the fourth duke of Buccleuch, who commissioned him to paint portraits of their families and retainers, such as his oil painting of Thomas Hudson, keeper at Bowhill, of about 1810 (Bowhill, Selkirk).

On 9 July 1817 Douglas was appointed miniature painter in Scotland to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and was commissioned to paint a miniature of his wife, Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only daughter of George IV. He then visited London, undertaking several commissions for William Balliol Best of Chilston Park, Kent. Although he subsequently returned to Edinburgh, he continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy in London from 1818 to 1826. In 1822 he painted a miniature of Sir Walter Scott's son, Walter. He died in Edinburgh on 30 January 1832. A pencil and watercolour drawing and a miniature by Douglas are in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.

Douglas and his wife, Charlotte Grieve, had one son and two daughters, the eldest of whom was Miss Archibald Ramsey Douglas (1807–1886), miniature painter, born on 23 April 1807 in Edinburgh. She learned the art of miniature painting from her father. She exhibited four works at the Royal Academy between 1834 and 1841 and nine works at the Royal Scottish Academy between 1835 and 1847, practising from 13 Hart Street, Edinburgh. She died in Edinburgh on 25 December 1886.


The portraits, painted by him, are of his four children:
Archibald Ramsay Douglas Charlotte Douglas
Archibald Ramsay Douglas Charlotte Douglas
Robert Duncan Douglas
Robert Duncan Douglas Christina Douglas
Later in her life Archibald Ramsay Douglas (24 Apr 1807-?) was a miniature painter in her own right and she exhibited at the RA 1834-1841. She seems not to have married. (Yes! I am assured she is female!)

Charlotte Douglas (2 May 1810-?) later married William Stuart and that branch of the family emigrated to New Zealand in the mid 19C, where her son, William Stuart, became Judge of the Native Land Court of New Zealand

Records suggest that the only son, Robert Duncan Douglas (24 Feb 1812-1881) never married and lived all his life in Edinburgh. He appears to have trained as a lawyer and been a Writer to the Signet, as well as a Procurator Fiscal (i.e. Crown Prosecutor).

The youngest was named Christina Brown Douglas (19 Mar 1815-21 Jan 1821) and she died before the age of six. Her portrait is unfinished.

Christina is shown in the fourth miniature, which as can be seen is unfinished, probably due to her early death. Thus, it seems both fitting and very fortunate that the four children have been reunited in this collection. At auction they could very easily have gone to different collectors and thus never been reunited.

Below is a portrait of his wife, Charlotte:

Charlotte Grieve

Examples of William and Archibald's painting can be found in this blog>>>


William DouglasWilliam Douglas
Watercolour on ivory; Signed on the reverse and dated, 1844, with the address 13 Hart Street, Edinburgh.
Dimensions: 7.00cm high ( 2.76 inches high); In gilt-metal frame


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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024