ROBERTSON, WALTER

(d. 1802)

Miniature Painter

From A Dictionary of Irish Artists 1913

Walter Robertson. Miniature, by Charles Robertson; in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Elder brother of Charles Robertson (q.v.). He studied in the Dublin Society's Schools which he entered on 21st November, 1765. About 1768 he established himself in Essex Street as a miniature painter, whence he removed in 1771 to "Mrs. Broadway's, Great George's Street, three doors above Fade Street," the sign of the Peacock. Here he remained until 1774, when he went to 17 Aungier Street to "Mr. Fenlan's, upholder," where, says an advertisement issued by him, "he will duly receive and execute the commands of his friends and the public in taking likenesses and designs in hair and painting as usual." In 1777 he moved to 7 Upper Stephen Street, in 1780 he was at 10 William Street, opposite Powerscourt House, and in 1783 in Grafton Street. He exhibited "designs and likenesses in hair" and miniatures at the Society of Artists in Dublin from 1769 to 1775, and in 1777.

About 1784 he went to London and was practising there for the next few years. He did not, however, exhibit at the Royal Academy or elsewhere, and nothing is known of him during that period. Returning to Dublin he was in 1792 made a bankrupt, and in May of that year his property, consisting of three houses in Great Britain Street, two at the corner of Cavendish Row and Great Britain Street, three others in Cavendish Row, opposite the Gardens, and others in the North Strand, most of which he had himself built, was sold by auction at the Exchange Coffee House in Crampton Court. He had become acquainted in London with Gilbert Stuart (q.v.), a friendship which perhaps may account for his financial difficulties, and when Stuart went to America early in 1793, Robertson accompanied him, both sailing in the same ship.

In America he painted in 1794 a miniature portrait of Washington, which was several times engraved, notably by R. Field, with decorations by J. J. Barralet (q.v.), and "published by Walter Robertson, Philadelphia and New York, 1st August, 1795." The original miniature while in the possession of General Edward Law Rogers was lost in the great fire at Baltimore in 1904. An engraving of it is in the "Century" magazine for May, 1890. Robertson also painted a portrait of Mrs. Washington which was engraved for "The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans," and one of Alexander Hamilton, which was engraved by Graham. The whereabouts of this miniature is unknown. Robertson, who was known as "Irish Robertson" to distinguish him from the two Scottish miniature painters, Archibald and Alexander Robertson working in America at the same time, gained some notice by his miniature copies of Stuart's portraits; but his career in America was probably not very successful, for he left that country in 1795 and made his way to India. He died at Futtehpore in 1802.

He was twice married; first in September, 1771, to Margaret Bentley of Stephen Street, Dublin, and secondly in 1781 to Elinor Robertson. A miniature portrait of him by his brother Charles is in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Although Robertson held for some years a leading position in Dublin as a miniature painter, considered, as Pasquin tells us, "as the first professor of his department of the arts in Ireland for several years," his work is now quite unknown. No miniatures which can be identified as his have been met with.

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