National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of David Anderson Sir Henry Raeburn (artist)
Scottish, 1756 - 1823
David Anderson, 1790
oil on canvas
overall: 152.5 x 107.5 cm (60 1/16 x 42 5/16 in.)
Widener Collection
1942.9.56
Not on View
From the Tour: Britain's Royal Academy of Art in the Late 1700s and Early 1800s
Object 5 of 8

The Scottish portraitist Henry Raeburn favored warm, dramatic illumination. Here the subject is bathed in twilight, his face half-lit, half-shaded. David Anderson stands proudly, holding an empty glove nonchalantly against his hip, while his bare hand holds his upturned hat. The portrait reveals no strain on Anderson's character even though it was created during a crisis in his career.

Anderson had served under the first governor-general of British India, Warren Hastings. Upon their return to Britain in 1785, Hastings agreed to commission his portrait from Sir Joshua Reynolds, London's court painter, as a gift to Anderson. In turn, Anderson sent this likeness by Raeburn, Edinburgh's leading artist, to Hastings in 1790. Therefore, in creating this portrait, Raeburn pitted his emerging reputation against that of Reynolds, under whom he had recently studied.

The exchanged tokens of friendship may have bolstered the sitters' spirits during one of the most infamous political scandals in British history—the Warren Hastings' Trial. A cabal of Englishmen, wishing to exploit India, had sullied Hastings' reputation by turning him into a scapegoat for their own greed. Although Hastings was exonerated in 1795, his impeachment proceedings had lasted seven years, during which time Raeburn portrayed Hastings' beleaguered associate.

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