Sir William Allan, 1782 - 1850. Artist.

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Sir William Allan, 1782 - 1850. Artist. Dated 1824
  • Scottish Art
Edinburgh-born artist William Allan was apprenticed to a coach painter before studying at the city’s Trustees’ Academy. He continued his studies in London until 1805. That year he went to Russia and traveled widely in the region until he returned to Scotland in 1814. Allan settled in Edinburgh where he painted scenes inspired by his travels as well as subjects from Scottish history. In 1826 he became Master of the Trustees’ Academy and in 1838 was elected President of the Royal Scottish Academy. This large chalk drawing of Allan is by William Bewick, who visited Scotland in 1824 on a fund-raising mission. During his visit Bewick drew a series of portraits of important Scots including surgeon Robert Liston, writer Anne MacVicar and artist Alexander Nasmyth.

Glossary Open

Royal Scottish Academy

The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) was formed in Edinburgh in 1826 by Scottish artists who felt alienated by what they perceived as the elitism of the Royal Institution and its management of contemporary art exhibitions. In 1835, the RSA secured exhibition rights in the Royal Institution building, which had been erected on The Mound by the Board of Manufactures in 1826. The RSA and the Board frequently argued over responsibilities for advanced art education. From 1859, the RSA shared the premises of the new National Gallery of Scotland under the Board’s custody. In 1910, after transferring most of its art collections to the Gallery, the RSA gained exclusive tenancy of the former Royal Institution building, where it continues to hold large-scale annual exhibitions.

Trustees' Academy

The Trustees’ Academy was founded in Edinburgh in 1760 by the Board of Trustees for the Improvement of Fisheries and Manufactures in Scotland. This was the earliest publicly funded art school in Britain, but during the early years it was essentially an elementary drawing school dedicated to applied design. The students included practical craftsmen as well as fine artists. The school gradually developed more facilities for advanced fine art education, including a plaster cast collection. In 1826, it relocated to a new building on The Mound, which was erected by the Board. The Trustees’ Academy was reformed in 1858, using the well established government Schools of Design in London as its model, and was the direct ancestor of Edinburgh College of Art, established in 1907.

Royal Scottish Academy, Trustees' Academy


  • Acc. No. PG 1048
  • Medium Chalk on paper
  • Size 53.30 x 38.10 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1927