The Age of Improvement

  • Admission free

1st December 2011 − 31st December 2015

Between 1750 and 1850 Scotland was transformed. Commercial, industrial and agricultural improvement changed the physical appearance and the social fabric of the country. A new meritocracy emerged, whose members demanded a leading role in civil society and politics, alongside the traditional landowning elite.

These new middle-classes wished to see their own values – industriousness, self-reliance and social responsibility – asserted in their portraits, offering a moral contrast to the showy and often overpowering images of earlier times.  Civic virtue and moral fibre would be judged in the faces of those who were now able to commission a likeness.

At the same time, artists were themselves responding to the intellectual ferment of the Enlightenment and developing innovative styles.  Portraiture was crucial in this.  It was in the laboratory of the portrait studio, and pre-eminently that of Sir Henry Raeburn, that the worth of these enterprising Scots was made visible.

In this display you can see the face of a new society, where hard work and public spirit underpinned an age of improvement

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Located in: Floorplans / Second floor See floorplans

Second floor

  • Gallery 2
  • Gallery 3
  • Gallery 4
  • Gallery 1
  • Gallery 5
  • Gallery 6
  • Gallery 7
  • Gallery 8
  • Gallery 9
  • Gallery 10
Portrait Second floor

Gallery

Pitlessie Fair Sir David Wilkie

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Landscape with Tourists at Loch Katrine John Knox

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Sir Henry Raeburn, 1756 - 1823. Portrait painter Thomas Campbell

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The Entrance of George IV at the Palace of Holyroodhouse Sir David Wilkie

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Robert Burns, 1759 - 1796. Poet Alexander Nasmyth

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Adam Duncan, 1st Viscount Duncan of Camperdown, 1731 - 1804. Admiral Henri-Pierre Danloux

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Sir Walter Scott, 1771 - 1832. Novelist and poet Sir Henry Raeburn

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James Maitland, 8th Earl of Lauderdale, 1759 - 1839. Statesman Joseph Nollekens

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Elizabeth Hamilton, 1757 - 1816. Writer and educationalist Sir Henry Raeburn

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John Clerk, Lord Eldin, 1757 - 1832. Judge Sir Henry Raeburn

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Robert Macqueen, Lord Braxfield, 1722 - 1799. Lord Justice-Clerk Sir Henry Raeburn

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John Rennie, 1761 - 1821. Engineer Sir Henry Raeburn

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Anne Forbes, 1745 - 1834. Artist David Allan

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Edinburgh from Canonmills John Knox

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Sir Alexander Morison, 1779 - 1866. Alienist Richard Dadd

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Rev. Thomas Guthrie, 1803 - 1873. Preacher and philanthropist (Exhibited as Dr Guthrie on a Mission of Mercy) James Edgar

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The Battle of Alexandria, 21 March 1801 Philip James de Loutherbourg

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James Hutton, 1726 - 1797. Geologist Sir Henry Raeburn

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James Hogg, 1770 - 1835. Poet; 'The Ettrick Shepherd' Sir John Watson Gordon

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Professor Adam Ferguson [Adhamh MacFhearghais], 1723 - 1816. Philosopher and author Sir Joshua Reynolds

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Sir Walter Scott, 1771 - 1832. Novelist Bertel Thorvaldsen

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A View of Stornoway James Barret

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Sir David Wilkie, 1785 - 1841. Artist (Self-portrait) Sir David Wilkie

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James Tassie, 1735 - 1799. Sculptor and gem engraver David Allan

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Carolina Oliphant, Lady Nairne, 1766 - 1845. Songwriter (With her son William Murray Nairne, later 6th Lord Nairne, 1808 - 1837) Sir John Watson Gordon

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Professor Joseph Black, 1728 - 1799. Chemist David Martin

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William Forbes of Callendar, 1743 - 1815. Coppersmith and landowner Sir Henry Raeburn

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Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, 1739 - 1806. Banker and author Sir Joshua Reynolds

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George IV, 1762 - 1830. Reigned as Regent 1811 - 1820, as King 1820 - 1830 Sir Thomas Lawrence

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The landing of British troops at Aboukir, 8 March 1801 Philip James de Loutherbourg

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Rev. Thomas Chalmers, 1780 - 1847. Preacher and social reformer Thomas Duncan

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David Allan, 1744 - 1796. Artist (Self-portrait) David Allan

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Dr John Moore, 1730 - 1802. Physician and author Sir Thomas Lawrence

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James Watt, 1736 - 1819. Engineer, inventor of the steam engine Sir William Beechey, John Partridge

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William Creech, 1745 - 1815. Publisher and Lord Provost of Edinburgh Sir Henry Raeburn

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Alexander Adam, 1741 - 1809. Rector of the Royal High School, Edinburgh Sir Henry Raeburn

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Lead Processing at Leadhills: Pounding the Ore David Allan

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Lead Processing at Leadhills: Washing the Ore David Allan

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Lead Processing at Leadhills: Smelting the Ore David Allan

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Lead Processing at Leadhills: Weighing the Lead Bars David Allan

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Professor Sir William Hamilton, 1788 - 1856. Metaphysician John Ballantyne

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Robert Cunninghame Graham of Gartmore, d. 1797. Poet and politician Sir Henry Raeburn

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Queen of Scots, Sovereign of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle and Chief of the Chiefs (born 1926) Julian Calder

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