(b Edinburgh, 2 Oct. 1713; d Dover, 10 Aug. 1784). Scottish painter, active mainly in London, where he was the outstanding portraitist from about 1740 to the rise of Reynolds in the mid-1750s (he also maintained a studio in Edinburgh for several years). He studied in Edinburgh and London, and then from 1736 to 1738 in Italy (including a period with Solimena in Naples), and when he returned to London he had a much more elegant and sophisticated style than any of the established portraitists such as Hudson. His pictures of women in particular have a decidedly French grace (The Artist's Wife, c.1758–60, NG, Edinburgh) and in this field he continued to be a serious rival to Reynolds (in 1759 Horace Walpole said: ‘Mr Reynolds seldom succeeds in women, Mr Ramsay is formed to paint them’).

Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)

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