Walter Scott


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James Saxon (fl. 1795-1828)

Relatively little is known of the life and career of James Saxon. He was born in Manchester and practised there as a portrait-painter until 1797. He then transferred his business to London where he had previously exhibited at the Royal Academy. In or around 1803 he came to work in Scotland, producing portraits of, amongst others, Scott and the naval strategist John Clerk of Eldin. Shortly afterwards, he went to St Petersburg where he practised successfully (and prolifically) for several years. On his return to Britain, he spent a short time in Glasgow, before settling in London. Saxon exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy between 1795 and 1817. Most reference works give his date of death as 1816 or 1817. The National Portrait Gallery, however, has found evidence to suggest that he was still alive in 1828. The National Portrait Gallery holds a portrait of Sir Richard Phillips by Saxon, together with two engravings by Charles Turner after a portrait of William Fordyce Mavor by Saxon. Images can be viewed at the Gallery's website.

Click on the image to the right to see a photogravure of Saxon's portrait of John Clerk of Eldin prepared for The Scott Gallery (1903), a collection of portraits of Scott, his family, friends, and contemporaries, and of historical figures portrayed in his work. Clerk was the father of Scott's lifelong friend and fellow advocate William Clerk (often thought to be the prototype of Darsie Latimer in Redgauntlet). As a small child, Scott had once witnessed John Clerk demonstrate his celebrated manoeuvre of dividing the line in naval battle to a group of men by means of cork models. Scott had picked up one of the models and been good-naturedly scolded by Clerk when he found he was missing a ship vital to his demonstration. Scott is though to have incorporated some of Clerk's eccentricities into the character of Jonathan Oldbuck, hero of The Antiquary.
Corson B.CAW.3


  • Bryan, Michael. Dictionary of Painters and Engravers: Biographical and Critical. New ed., rev. and enl., ed. Robert Edmund Graves (London: G. Bell, 1886-1889)
  • Catalogue of Engraved British Portraits Preserved in the Department of Prints and Drawings in the British Museum (London : Printed by order of the Trustees, 1908-25)
  • Caw, James. L. The Scott Gallery: A Series of One Hundred and Forty-Six Photogravures, Together with Descriptive Letterpress (Edinburgh; London : T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1903)
  • Dictionary of National Biography (London : Oxford University Press, 1921)
  • Redgrave, Samuel. A Dictionary of Artists of the English School: Painters, Sculptors, Architects with Notices of their Lives and Work (London : G. Bell and sons, 1878)
  • Russell, Francis. Portraits of Sir Walter Scott: A Study of Romantic Portraiture (London: The Author, 1987)

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Last updated: 09-Nov-2004
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