Christina Robertson lived from 17 December 1796 to 30 April 1854. She was a portrait painter who became the painter in residence at the Russian Court in St Petersburg. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Christina Saunders was born and brought up in Kinghorn, in Fife. She came from an artistic family, and showed considerable early talent herself. As a young woman she moved to work in London alongside her uncle, the artist George Saunders. She soon established herself as a skilled and popular painter of portraits and miniatures. In 1823 she married another artist, James Robertson. Four of their children survived into adulthood.
In 1828, Christina Robertson set up her own studio in London and the following year became the first woman to become an honourary member of the Royal Scottish Academy. In 1837 she visited Paris and while there painted portraits of a number of members of the Russian aristocracy. In 1840 she was invited to travel to the Russian capital, St Petersburg, to paint a series of portraits of the Imperial royal family. She was made a member of the Russian Imperial Academy of Arts in 1841 and thereafter made a series of visits to St Petersburg, establishing a studio there in 1849. While in St Petersburg she produced large numbers of portraits, many of which have survived and can today be seen in various Russian museums.
Christina was in St Petersburg when she died in 1854 and was buried in the Volkov Cemetery. Her work became much less well known after the Russian Revolution, but exhibitions staged in Russia and Scotland in the late 1990s have helped enhance her reputation in more recent times.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".