Fraser Jnr RSA, Alexander (1828-1899)

Fraser Jnr RSA, Alexander (1828-1899)

Alexander Fraser RSA was a Scottish artist predominantly known as a painter of rugged naturalistic landscapes, genre scenes and, occasionally, interiors. Hailing from Woodcockdale, near Linlithgow, his early tuition was provided by his father, Alexander George Fraser ARSA (1786-1865), before he undertook formal training at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh and the Royal Scottish Academy. A precocious talent, in his autobiography he recalled at an early age “covering every scrap of paper I laid hands on” with “drawings of horses and boats”. And “when lost - a matter of frequent occurrence - I was usually found at a pit on the seashore, busily modelling in clay, often with a shell lying before me to copy from.”

This fascination with nature fuelled his desire to work outdoors - studying diligently amid the ever-changing conditions and painting what he saw without embellishment. His appreciation for the picturesque lochs and glens of his homeland earned him an early debut at the Royal Scottish Academy where he was later elected a member. He was also shown at the Royal Academy in London and frequently at the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts.

But Fraser was more than simply a landscape painter of repute. During his early years, he produced numerous genre scenes, which were similar in some respects to those of his father. They often carried a witty narrative within a domestic setting. The works of Sir David Wilkie RA (1785-1841) were perhaps an inspiration. In addition, Fraser Jnr enjoyed historical buildings, particularly the bewitching Rosslyn Chapel in Midlothian, which he painted on numerous occasions.

His works are held in numerous public collections including at the Scottish National Gallery.


Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts.

Public Collections

Abbotsford House, City Art Centre, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, Hospitalfield, Kirkcaldy Galleries, National Galleries of Scotland, Paisley Museum and Art Galleries, Perth Art Gallery, Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture, Rozelle House Galleries, The Dick Institute, The Hunterian at the University of Glasgow, The Stirling Smith Art Gallery & Museum, University of Edinburgh.



Born in Woodcockdale, near Linlithgow, Scotland, to Alexander George Fraser ARSA (1786-1865), a painter, and Jessie Fraser (nee Moir).

Initially taught by his father.

Raised in Dunoon on the coast of Argyll. In his unfinished autobiography, he described this time.

"At an early age, I evinced a taste for art, covering every scrap of paper I laid hands on (as indeed most children do) with drawings of horses and boats. When lost - a matter of frequent occurrence - I was usually found at a pit on the seashore, busily modelling in clay, often with a shell lying before me to copy from. Thus early had a taste to work from nature shewn itself."


Debuted at the Royal Scottish Academy.


Enrolled at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh. Studied under Thomas Duncan.


Studied life drawing at the Royal Scottish Academy.


Elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy.


Married Jane Duncan in Edinburgh.


Elected a member of the Royal Scottish Academy.


Moved to London for three years to study.


Debuted at the Royal Academy.


Published a biography of his friend and fellow artist Horatio McCulloch RSA (1805-1867).


Died in Musselburgh, Scotland.


The Edinburgh Evening News

“As briefly intimated in our last edition yesterday. Mr Alexander Fraser, the venerable Royal Scottish Academician, died at his residence, Eskaide, Musselburgh, yesterday morning. The deceased, who has been in poor health for several years, was only seriously ill for a couple of days. He was born in January, 1828, at Woodcockdale, near Linlithgow, and was thus over 71 years old.

The family removed to Dunoon, and here Fraser who was a mere child, spent his time covering stray sheets of paper with drawings of boats and houses. His art life began in earnest on the removal of the family to Lanark, and as his father was a good amateur artist he encouraged his son in his sketching of rustic figures and scenery.

In 1844 young Fraser went to the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh and met with Sir William Fettes Douglas, with whom he did a good deal of sketching in pencil and watercolour at Roslin, the Trossachs, and in Warwickshire. For ten years Fraser spent his winters in London, widening his knowledge of art, and studying particularly the work of Muller and Cox and the Dutch masters.

His first sale was to Edward Hargitt, an Edinburgh music master, and the picture, which was sold for seven guineas, was that of two men cutting beans. His first picture in the Scottish Academy was in 1847, when he showed ‘A Cottage Interior,’ and after that he exhibited with much regularity. For a time he lived at Barncleuth, Hamilton, and the pictures of Cadzow Forest that he made at one time and another in his career have always been highly prized as among his best work. Bough was at this time greatly associated with him. In 1858 he was elected an associate of the Academy, and four years thereafter a member.

For a good number of years Mr Fraser resided in the unpretentious home at Musselburgh in which he breathed his last. Mr Fraser was married and leaves a daughter. As an artist, the deceased holds a high place as a landscape painter. He was a good colourist, one of his favourite schemes of colour was a picture of strong, rich greens, lit up by a little touch of red.”

Dundee Advertiser

“Alexander Fraser, R.S.A., died yesterday morning at his residence, 16 Eskside, Musselburgh, after two days' illness. Mr Fraser was born in Linlithgowshire, but for many years was a resident in Edinburgh. He devoted himself to the painting of sweet rustic scenes, and when at his best attained very attractive results. Among his works are ‘A Fisherman's Home,’ ‘A Highland Landscape,’ ‘The Margin of the Forest,’ ‘Trout Stream in the West Highlands,’ and ‘Springtime at Dingleton.’”

Musselburgh News

“Death Of A Distinguished Artist At Musselburgh. On Wednesday morning there died at his residence, Eskside, Musselburgh, Mr Alexander Fraser, R.S.A. Owing to the fact of his having been laid aside through advancing years and bodily infirmity this famous artist has for a time been out of the scope of the Scottish artistic world, and many in Musselburgh were quite unaware that within the burgh boundaries there Mr Fraser was in his lived so famous a painter.

His father was an amateur artist and a friend of Sir Wm. Fettes Douglas, the late President of the Academy, who painted a portrait of the lad, and this hangs now in the Library in the Mound. It is also the case that young Fraser went with his father's distinguished friend on sketching trips. He had a complete course of tuition, and from 1858 he continued regularly to exhibit in the Royal Scottish Academy. In the year named he became an Associate of the Scottish Academy, and four years later a member. His taste lay in the line of landscape painting, in which he was singularly successful, and his works command large prices. His funeral takes place at Inveresk Churchyard tomorrow.”

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