RAEBURN, Henry, [1756–1823]. School of…
Portrait in oils of Brigade-Major Taylor on the hill above San Sebastian.
Oil portrait on canvas, 125.5 x 98.5 cm. Edinburgh, circa 1814.
Major James Taylor [1785-1829] was one of Australia’s leading early artists and part of the inner circle of Lachlan and Elizabeth Macquarie.
Taylor arrived in Sydney in 1817 on the convict transport Matilda as a senior officer of the 48th Regiment.
He was trained as a topographic artist in the British Army in Spain and Taylor’s famous panorama, painted on the spot in 1820 and printed in London in 1823 by the publisher Colnaghi, is one of the finest of any of the early views of Australia.
This portrait is of James Taylor at the peak of his career, having returned to Britain after six years of service in the Peninsular War.
Taylor is depicted in his uniform as Brigade-Major and behind him lies the town of San Sebastian on the Spanish coast, the site of a famous battle in late 1813 at which Taylor’s exploits led to him being mentioned in dispatches by Wellington.
Although unsigned the portrait is believed to have been painted by Sir Henry Raeburn (1756-1823), the Scottish portraitist, or by another artist within his school.
Raeburn became known for several stylistic innovations, among which the use of raking and even “contre-jour” light was most prominent.
Raeburn had a long and distinguished career, and became an integral part of the coterie of Scots artists in Edinburgh, counting writers Sir Walter Scott and Sir Adam Ferguson as close friends.