This oil on canvas was painted by Henry Raeburn (1756 – 1823), who is considered to be the greatest Scottish portraitist of the period of the Enlightenment. In fact, he was an artist who achieved some international fame and made a living from his art, which was not easy in his homeEdinburgh. In fact, a year before his death he was made Her Majesty's Painter and Portrait Painter for Scotland, and was already Sir toKing George IV
Henry Raeburn's Archers
Definitely something worthwhile for a character who was orphaned as a child and was educated in an orphanage. There he learned the goldsmith's trade, but soon his talent for painting, and especially for portraiture, was demonstrated.
He was also lucky enough to marry a rich widow, which at one point allowed him to continue his education, and even travel to Rome or meet Joshua Reynolds in London, the great portrait painter of the moment in Great Britain.
Raeburn's works like this double portrait in the National Gallery in London show that we are dealing with a painter with an innate ability. And it is even known that he worked directly on the canvas with hardly any sketches, just some very basic notes that he later modified on the fly.
In this case we are before a painting that he would make on horseback in 1789 and 1790. A painting where he portrays the brothersRaith's Robert Ferguson and Lieutenant General Sir Ronald Ferguson, whom he shows us amusing himself with archery.
The image has all the characteristics of the painter's style. It is a very loose invoice and with such soft colors that they can even give the sensation of being an unfinished painting. But it's not like that.
There is a clear geometric arrangement in the scene. We see that the arrow crosses the canvas horizontally and divides it into two halves, above and below. While the vertical halves, right and left, are also clearly marked by the two figures of the characters, both enclosed by a kind of curve or parentheses that form both the arch on one side and the figure of the shot on the other.
He is able to portray two characters and individualize them even though they wear the same outfit. We see the older brother in the foreground, he is more illuminated and directs his gaze to the right, towards an indeterminate point. However, the youngest, he is a little behind and in the shade, but thanks to him looking at us, the viewers, he reaches the same protagonist as his brother. Without a doubt, it is a very careful portrait in every detail by Raeburn, and the respect that the artist has for both characters of the aristocracy, whom he painted in more than once.