About this artwork

According to an inscription on the back of the picture ‘The Uncultivated Genius’ was painted from life in Naples in 1775 during Allan’s extended stay in Italy (1764-77). Allan’s etching of this same subject bears an alternative title ‘Neapolitan Painter’. The hack artist is shown painting a view of the eruption of Vesuvius. Recent research has indicated that the target of Allan’s satire was probably Pietro Fabris, the popular landscape and figure painter. Fabris was a protégé of Sir William Hamilton, the British Ambassador to Naples, who owned another version of this picture.

  • title:
    The Uncultivated Genius
  • accession number:
    NG 2126
  • artist:
  • gallery:
  • object type:
  • materials:
    Oil on copper
  • date created:
    Dated 1775 (on the back)
  • measurements:
    23.90 x 18.50 cm (framed: 34.00 x 28.70 x 3.70 cm)
  • credit line:
    Purchased 1950

David Allan

David Allan

Allan was born in Alloa, on the River Forth, and attended the Foulis Academy in Glasgow for seven years. In 1767 he moved to Rome, where he lived for ten years; this was the most successful period of his life. In Rome, Allan painted ambitious historical pictures, portraits, caricatures and genre scenes. On returning to London in 1777, he spent two years trying to establish himself. Unsuccessful and ill, he returned to Scotland where he specialised in painting family groups. He also produced book illustrations and was appointed the master of the Trustees' Academy at Edinburgh.