Scottish artist George Ogilvy Reid was an extremely acclaimed painter of portraits and genre scenes. He was lauded as one of the frontrunners of the Royal Scottish Academy, bringing it into wider national acclaim. Interestingly, he began his career as an engraver, and whilst he had begun to exhibit watercolours of the wild, ethereal Scottish landscape in his twenties, it was not until his thirties that he properly turned his attention towards painting.
It seems passion for his country fuelled his interest and his career. Many of his works depict scenes of Scottish history, such as the death of Viscount Dundee during the Jacobite Uprisings in the 17th-Century. This painting was criticised in its time for forsaking historical accuracy. However, Reid’s focus is on detail and symbolism. He emphasises the historical importance of this event by dramatizing the Viscount’s death. The dying man in his bed of white sheets, stark against the dim light of the room, looks to the Scottish standard. His armour lies discarded on the floor. He has fallen, but the standard still stands, supported by his fellow soldiers.
Reid also took an interest in contemporary events and figures, capturing scenes of World War One and the portraits of Queen Victoria and her daughter, Princess Beatrice of Battenberg. His work falls in line with the style of earlier preeminent Scottish artists such as David Wilkie (1785-1841) and William Quiller Orchardson (1832-1910). The attention to detail and the use of body language to evoke emotion is something Reid captured from these artists and cultivated in himself. He was praised for his ‘shrewd characterisation.’ This continuance of and building upon Scottish painting tradition was rewarded in 1891. Queen Victoria, who had a deep love for Scotland, commissioned Reid to paint ‘The Baptism of Prince Maurice of Battenberg,’ her grandchild through Princess Beatrice.
Reid would remain a distinguished figure throughout his life. In 1896, a bust of his likeness was commissioned from Scottish sculptor David Watson Stevenson. Many of his works now reside in the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy.
Born in Leith, Edinburgh.
Began exhibiting at the Scottish National Gallery.
Became an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy.
Commissioned by Queen Victoria to paint ‘The Baptism of Prince Maurice of Battenberg.’
Became a member of the Royal Scottish Academy.
Died in Edinburgh. Buried in Rosebank Cemetery, Edinburgh.