Alexander Runciman, 1736 - 1785. Artist

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Alexander Runciman, 1736 - 1785. Artist 1785


  • Scottish Art
Alexander Runciman was a Scottish painter of historical and mythological subjects. He spent five years in Rome before returning to Edinburgh where in 1772 he became master of the Trustees’ Academy. This miniature pencil drawing by John Brown was created in 1785, the year of Runciman’s sudden death. Brown was therefore keen to point out that he had drawn his sitter ‘ad vivam’ – from the life. Runciman’s hands rest on a book entitled ‘Ossian’: James MacPherson’s translations of ancient Gaelic poetry supposedly by the third-century Scottish bard. Several years earlier Runciman had decorated parts of Sir John Clerk’s Penicuik House with large-scale murals. His famous ceiling of ‘Ossian’s Hall’ depicted narrative scenes from these poems. Sadly all murals were destroyed in a fire in 1899.

Glossary Open

History painting

Paintings in which the subject is taken from biblical, classical or other mythological histories.


A painting or drawing, usually a portrait, on a very small scale. These were popular prior to the invention of photographic portraits in the 19th century.


An artwork or design attached or applied directly to a wall.


Refers to figures and events from myths which are the ancient stories that usually explain the origins of historical or natural phenomena.

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.

History painting, Miniature, Mural, Mythological, Trustees' Academy


  • Acc. No. PG 3612
  • Medium Pencil on paper
  • Size 7.30 x 9.50 cm
  • Credit Gifted by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland in 2009