Talks & lectures | The Gentle Shepherd(ess): George Chalmers and the artistic language of Jacobitism

Sir George Chalmers’ (about 1718/20–91) A Shepherdess Spied Upon in a Landscape (about 1760) is an intriguing painting which reflects on the artist’s own background and network, as well as on the famous ballad opera by Allan Ramsay (1684-1758), The Gentle Shepherd (1725/1729), performed over 200 times in the eighteenth century.

Ramsay’s drama, and its setting in Midlothian and the north Borders were a source of inspiration to a number of artists, including David Allan. Indeed, Chalmers was a pupil of Allan Ramsay’s son Allan (1713-84) at the end of the 1730s, and later married Isabella, sister of the Jacobite painter and friend of James Gibbs, Cosmo Alexander (1724-72), who was in exile after the ‘Forty-five with his father, the painter John Alexander (1686–about 1766). This lecture explores the meaning of Chalmers’ Jacobite painting, its relation to Ramsay’s ballad opera and the references it makes to the pastoral as an expression of Scottish nationality. Ramsay’s ballad opera was itself Jacobite and the lecture concludes by situating Chalmers’ symbolism within the wider world of Scottish-Italian Jacobite iconography.

This talk was originally broadcast live and is followed by responses to audience questions.

Talks & lectures

Talks & lectures

27 April 2023