Sir Daniel Macnee

Sir Daniel MacneeThere is a need — normally unacknowledged by me — to trace back one’s parentage and delve into one’s ancestral history. Since I was asked to do so, I will yield to that need, while admitting an attraction to one of my own forbears from two hundred years ago.

My great grandfather, Sir Daniel Macnee, was born in the village of Fintry, Stirlingshire, Scotland, in June 1806. From early childhood, he showed strong artistic talent — painting and theatrical performances especially. During his youth, the promising young artist was introduced to Sir Walter Scott, who left a lasting impression.

In 1832, Sir Daniel moved to England and became well known for his portrait painting. His rendering of Lord Hardinge was his first to be exhibited in the Royal Academy. He later returned to Scotland, living in Glasgow, where he formed a circle of brilliant young men of genius and humor. A distinguished artist, Macnee became president of the Royal Scottish Academy, home to many of his paintings. In 1877, he received his knighthood and moved to Edinburgh.

Among his most highly acclaimed portraits, Lady in Grey, an idealized portrait of his daughter Isabella, together with the small compositional study, hangs today in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Sir Daniel Macnee was tall with a fine, massive presence and a gift for brilliant conversation. His storytelling talents were legendary. At home with his family and in society, Sir Daniel was listened to with delight. Actors of the highest eminence were his best audiences – the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) called him the Prince of Raconteurs.

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery holds 24 portraits by Sir Daniel, and these are rotated in and out of the display areas. The other substantial public holdings are in the ownership of Glasgow Museums and Art Galleries. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery also holds 3 portraits of Sir Daniel himself. In addition, another portrait of him by James Archer is in the collection of the Royal Scottish Academy.

If you are traveling to Edinburgh, one of the world’s great cities, and are interested in viewing any of these paintings, the helpful folks at the galleries have suggested getting in touch ahead of time to arrange for a viewing.

The National Gallery of Scotland Picture Library is the contact for prints of these images:

The Picture Library, National Galleries of Scotland