Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: John Davidson (Scottish Artist) ( No Answer,   6 Comments )
Subject: John Davidson (Scottish Artist)
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Visual Arts
Asked by: erazerbelt-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 15 Jul 2006 19:03 PDT
Expires: 14 Aug 2006 19:03 PDT
Question ID: 746685
Hi. I'm looking for information on John Davidson, who was a portrait
painter in Edinburg, Scotland in the late 1800s. I'm interested in
knowing the following:

- His biography, including his birth, death, where he's buried, who is
family was, etc.
-- Where is paintings were shown, and where they can still be seen

Also, he was my great uncle, and as I am heading to Scotland in early
September, I would like to see as many of his paintings as possible. I
would also love any suggestions on how to use whatever information you
might find to dig up more information while I'm there.


Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 15 Jul 2006 20:35 PDT

I'm afraid that your great uncle's name is a fairly common one, making
it very difficult to research without additional information on him or
his works.

Was he well-known as a portraitist?  Do you have reason to suppose
anything of his still exists, or is on display?

Any info on his life?

If there's no more information to go on, I rather doubt we can find
anytbing meaningful for you (but I've been fooled before!).

Good luck,


Clarification of Question by erazerbelt-ga on 02 Aug 2006 10:30 PDT
Hi. I just found some more information, which we are pretty sure (but
not positive) is about our ancestor.

"John Davidson, fl 1858-1895
Edinburgh painter of portraits, landscape and figure compositions,
often around the Pentlands, generally in oil but sometimes in
watercolor. A prolific artist, he exhibited more than 50 works at the
RSA between the above years, in the English Provinces, at the GI(7)
and AAS (1), from 2 West Laurieston Place."

I believe that the AAS is the Aberdeen Artists' Society, and the GI is
the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts. Also, I don't know what
the fl stands for, but we're pretty sure that the 1858-1895 is not the
duration that he was alive, but rather, the duration that he showed

Hope this helps, and please let me know if you need further clarification.

There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: John Davidson (Scottish Artist)
From: myoarin-ga on 16 Jul 2006 03:01 PDT
You might ask here:

or click on "home" at the bottom and try one of the other national galleries.

I didn't find Davidson in the alphabetical list, but a curator might know more.
Subject: Re: John Davidson (Scottish Artist)
From: fp-ga on 05 Aug 2006 09:07 PDT
Explaining the abbreviation "fl":

"Floruit (often abbreviated fl. or flor. and sometimes italicized to
show it is Latin) refers to a period of time during which a person,
school, movement or even species was active or flourishing":
Subject: Re: John Davidson (Scottish Artist)
From: fp-ga on 05 Aug 2006 11:40 PDT
The 1891 census (Scotland) has several entries for "John Davidson"

Well, just by chance, I decided to have a closer look at one the entries:
John Davidson, age 66, living in Edinburgh, in the district of Newington.

"Profession or occupation" of this John Davidson (1891, age 66):
"Artist - Portrait & Landscape Painter".

I do not know if this the artist you are trying to find. It would be
possible that another "John Davidson" would also be an artist.

In the 1871 census John Davidson (age 46) lived with his wife
Christina (age 38) and six children (Thomas, Cathrine, Mary,
Christina, John and Annie) in the district of St. George.
"Profession or occupation": "Artist".

The genealogical sources available at
would certainly reveal many more details concerning the painter John Davidson.

However, only some of the records are free of charge:
Subject: Re: John Davidson (Scottish Artist)
From: fp-ga on 06 Aug 2006 03:32 PDT
John Davidson (as referred to in my previous comment) died in 1896:

His parents were Thomas (auctioneer) and Mary.
You'll find more on Thomas and his family on this webpage (also mentioning David):

Perhaps you could ask the Researcher leli-ga (living in Scotland) if
she could find some further details.
Subject: Re: John Davidson (Scottish Artist)
From: leli-ga on 06 Aug 2006 03:36 PDT
Hi erazerbelt

Just about to post this - and I see fp has been thinking on the same lines as me!

I've found out some things - but unfortunately can't trace the current
whereabouts of any paintings. So here goes:


After finding John Davidson the portrait painter's details in the 1881
census, I had search terms which led to a thoroughly-researched
genealogy page. I've been able to confirm part of it, though not all.
(See the links and suggestions for further research below.)

Davidson was born in or near the village of Pentland a few miles south
of Edinburgh about 1825 or a little later. He had lots of brothers and
sisters, some born in Edinburgh/Midlothian, but others in Fife and
Angus. His father, Thomas, organised sales of farm crops, horses,
wood, pasturage etc. At his death in 1865 he was called an
auctioneer/appraiser. Shortly before he died John and another son took
out a newspaper announcement to say they would continue the business,
but the sale advertisements stopped after a couple of years.

Number 2, West Lauriston Place was probably a tenement, several
"houses" leading off one "common stair". (In Scotland tenement houses
were/are normal - it doesn't mean slummy.)

JD seems to have been a (house?) painter's apprentice in his early
years. He married Christina Dewar and had six children. They were
still in W. Lauriston Place in 1871. In 1881 he and his family were in
a newly-built house with garden in the expanding southern suburb of
Newington. He was still living in 1891, by which time they had moved
to another fairly new house not far away.

In the year Christina died, 1896, she was already a widow, but I
didn't find a date for JD's death. Three of the four daughters were
teachers of one kind or another (music, kindergarten, dress-making).
One son was a photographer and art student, another a commercial

Here's the genealogy page:


Searching newspaper archives reveals that two of his portraits
exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) were of prominent
In 1863 they showed his painting of the Rev. Dr. John Duncan, quite an
important figure at the time, scholar at New College, now part of
Edinburgh University. In 1886 he exhibited a portrait of Rev. Dr.
Wilson, a Dundee minister who would have spent time in Edinburgh on
church business.

JD was not a full member of the RSA - (he isn't listed on their site)
- but he must have been considered good to have so many paintings
exhibited there.

Finding his paintings may be very difficult. I would suggest
contacting public art galleries in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh,
for instance:
 . . . and also lots of dealers in 19th century Scottish painting. One
suggestion for you is the picture specialist at this long-established
Edinburgh auctioneers:

It could possibly be worth following up the Church connections. 
A link for the Rev. John "Rabbi" Duncan:
Wilson commemorated by a much-mocked poet:

Here's someone who has a "little Christmas engraving" of JD's.

Research possibilities

1) Buy a 24/48 hour pass to The Scotsman digital archive. You'll find
two references to John Davidson exhibiting at the Royal Scottish
Academy. (1863 and 1886) There may be more - the search system isn't
perfect and it's slow work.

You'll also find ads for auctions organised by the Davidson business,
and obituaries of the two ministers in the portraits.

2a) If you're in Edinburgh visit the Central Library on George IV Bridge.
Go to the Fine Art Library and ask to see a book which probably has
details of JD's paintings shown at the RSA: "The Royal Scottish
Academy 1826-1916: a complete list of the exhibited work."
There are several used copies of this listed at:
The librarians may be able to suggest other resources for you.

2b) Drop in to the Edinburgh Room at the same library and see if a
librarian there can help you.

3) Contact lots and lots of galleries and picture dealers.

4) Buy a few pounds' worth of credit for genealogical research here:
You could follow this up personally in Edinburgh.

5) If some paintings are still in the area, it could be worth
advertising in the free local paper, delivered to nearly every

Good luck - Leli
Subject: Re: John Davidson (Scottish Artist)
From: fp-ga on 06 Aug 2006 03:50 PDT
John Davidson married Christina Dewar in 1853. 
Both died in 1896.

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy