Alexander Runciman - Encyclopedia

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ALEXANDER RUNCIMAN (1736-1785), Scottish historical painter, was born in Edinburgh in 1736. He studied at Foulis's Academy, Glasgow, and at the age of thirty proceeded to Rome, where he spent five years. It was at this time that he became acquainted with Fuseli. The painter's earliest efforts had been in landscape; he soon, however, turned to historical and imaginative subjects, exhibiting his "Nausicaa at Play with her Maidens" in 1767 at the Free Society of British Artists, Edinburgh. On his return from Italy, after a brief residence in London, where in 1772 he exhibited in the Royal Academy, he settled in Edinburgh, and was appointed master of the Trustees' Academy. He was patronized by Sir James Clerk, whose hall at Penicuik House he decorated with a series of subjects from Ossian. He also executed various religious paintings and an altar-piece in the Cowgate Episcopal Church, Edinburgh, and easel pictures of "Cymon and Iphigenia," "Sigismunda weeping over the Heart of Tancred," and "Agrippina landing with the Ashes of Germanicus." He died in Edinburgh on the 4th of October 1785. His works, while they show high intention and considerable imagination, are frequently defective in form and extravagant in gesture. His younger brother, John Runciman (1744-1766), who accompanied him to Rome, and died at Naples in 1766, was an artist of great promise. His "Flight into Egypt," in the National Gallery of Scotland, is remarkable for the precision of its execution and the mellow richness of its colouring.

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