Allan Ramsay lived from 13 October 1713 to 10 August 1784. He was a renowned portrait painter, and is often called Allan Ramsay (the Younger) to avoid confusion with his father, the poet Allan Ramsay the Elder. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Allan first trained as an artist at the Academy of St Luke, which operated between 1729 and 1731 in premises rented from the University of Edinburgh. At the age of 20 he went to London to study under the artist Hans Hysing and at the St. Martin's Lane Academy. From 1736 he spent three years studying in Rome and Naples under Francesco Solimena and Francesco Fernandi.
in 1738 he returned to Edinburgh, making an immediate impression with a series of portraits including a full-length portrait of the Duke of Argyll, that in more recent times has been used on Royal Bank of Scotland banknotes. In 1739 he married Anne Bayne, the daughter of a Professor of Law at Edinburgh. They were to have two infants who did not survive before Anne herself died in childbirth on 4 February 1743. Ramsay supplemented his income through commission by teaching drawing, and in 1751 he married one of his pupils, Margaret Lindsay in Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh. They would later have two daughters and a son together.
Allan and Margaret spent the years 1754 to 1757 in Italy together, researching, copying old masters, drawing antiquities and archaeological sites, and earning money by painting portraits. In 1761 Ramsay was appointed to the prestigious post of "painter in ordinary" to George III. He found himself so overloaded with commissions for royal portraits he had to employ a number of assistants to finish his work for him.
Ramsay went into semi-retirement from 1770, and his painting ceased altogether when he injured an arm in an accident after a third trip to Italy from 1775-1777. Margaret died in 1782, and Allan died in Dover in 1784.