Archibald Skirving

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Archibald Skirving
File:Archibald Skirving.jpg
Born 1749
Died 1819
Nationality Britain
Occupation Portrait painter
Known for sketch of Robert Burns
Children yes

Archibald Skirving (1749–1819) was a Scottish portrait painter. He was born at Athelstaneford near Haddington.


Adam Skirving's son Archibald was born at Athelstaneford near Haddington. His younger brother Robert was in the army. All three of these wrote verses but it is Adam who is best remembered as a song writer.[1]

After studying both in Rome and London, he settled in Edinburgh, where he obtained some fame as a portrait-painter. His most successful portraits were executed in crayon.[2]

The best known is his crayon portrait of Robert Burns, executed partly from Nasmyth's famous portrait, and partly from Skirving's recollection of the poet, whom he met, it is said, at Edinburgh in 1786. This portrait was acquired by Sir Theodore Martin and is in the National Burns Collection.[2]

Other of Skirving's sitters were Alexander Carlyle, D.D., of Inveresk, the mother of Jane Welsh Carlyle, Gavin Hamilton, Isabella Fraser-Tytler, Professor Dugald Stewart, and Dr. John Hunter, principal of St. Andrews University. Skirving was eccentric, and did not pursue his art industriously. In later life he seldom produced more than one picture a year, his price ranging about one hundred guineas. He died suddenly at Inveresk Lodge, Inveresk, East Lothian in 1819, and was buried at Athelstaneford churchyard. Some of his portraits are in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh.[2]


Skirving's portraits including one of his father and a self-portrait are in the National Galleries of Scotland.[3] A sculptor John Henning named one of his sons Archibald Skirving Henning in 1805.[4][5] He became an artist and he has a few paintings in public collections in the United Kingdom.


  1. Burns, Robert; et al. (1839). The Scottich Musical Museum. pp. 190–196. Retrieved 12 July 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Millar 1896.
  3. Paintings by Archibald Skirving at the Art UK site
  4. Paintings by Archibald Skirving Henning at the Art UK site
  5. Obituary, The Gentleman's Magazine, 1864, retrieved 12 July 2014

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainMillar, Alexander Hastie (1897). [ "Skirving, Archibald" ] Check |ws link in chapter= value (help). In Lee, Sidney (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 52. London: Smith, Elder & Co.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>