Alexander Johnston

(1815 - 2 February 1891)

Born at Edinburgh, he was son of an architect, who placed him with a seal-engraver at the age of fifteen. He was a student in the Trustees' Academy from 1831 to 1834, when he went to London with an introduction to Sir David Wilkie. He entered the schools of the Royal Academy under William Hilton in 1836.

While in Edinburgh Johnston took up portrait-painting, and he brought with him to London some portraits of Dr. Morison's family, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836, and 1837. In 1838, he exhibited there his first subject picture, "The Mother's Prayer", and sent his "Scotch Lovers" to the Society of British Artists. In 1839, his picture of "The Mother's Grave" at the Royal Academy attracted favourable notice, while "The Gentle Shepherd" (1840), and "Sunday Morning" (1841), (formerly in the Bicknell collection and engraved by F. Bromley) established his popularity.

In 1841 Johnston exhibited his first historical picture, "The Interview of the Regent Murray with Mary Queen of Scots", which was purchased by the Edinburgh Art Union. In later years he was a contributor to all the main exhibitions. "The Covenanter's Marriage" (1842) was engraved by C. Lightfoot for Gems of Modern Art. "A Scene from the Lady of the Lake", illustrating the poem by Walter Scott, obtained a premium from the Liverpool Academy in 1849; and "Prince Charles's Introduction to Flora Macdonald after the Battle of Culloden" was awarded by the Glasgow Art Union a premium (declined). In 1845, Johnston "Archbishop Tillotson administering the Sacrament to Lord William Russell in the Tower", which was purchased by Robert Vernon, formed part of The Vernon Gallery, and went to the National Gallery (engraved by T. L. Atkinson and Charles Henry Jeens). Johnston was still an exhibitor in 1884. -- en.wikipedia


JOHNSTON, ALEXANDER (1815–1891), painter, born at Edinburgh in 1815, was son of an architect, who placed him at the age of fifteen with a seal-engraver in that city. He was a student in the Trustees' Academy there from 1831 to 1834, when he came to London with an introduction to Sir David Wilkie. In accordance with Wilkie's recommendation he entered the schools of the Royal Academy under W. Hilton in 1836. While in Edinburgh he had chiefly devoted himself to portrait-painting, and he brought with him to London some portraits of Dr. Morison's family, which he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1836 and 1837. In 1838, he exhibited there his first subject picture, ‘The Mother's Prayer,’ and sent his ‘Scotch Lovers’ to the Society of British Artists. In 1839, his picture of ‘The Mother's Grave’ at the Royal Academy attracted favourable notice, while ‘The Gentle Shepherd’ (1840), and ‘Sunday Morning’ (1841), (formerly in the Bicknell collection and engraved by F. Bromley) established his popularity. In 1841, he exhibited his first historical picture, ‘The Interview of the Regent Murray with Mary Queen of Scots,’ which was purchased by the Edinburgh Art Union. In later years he was a frequent contributor to all the principal exhibitions. ‘The Covenanter's Marriage’ (1842), was engraved by C. Lightfoot for ‘Gems of Modern Art.’ ‘A Scene from the Lady of the Lake’ obtained a premium of 50l. from the Liverpool Academy in 1849, and ‘Prince Charles's Introduction to Flora Macdonald after the Battle of Culloden’ was awarded by the Glasgow Art Union a premium which the painter declined. In 1845, Johnston exhibited ‘Archbishop Tillotson administering the Sacrament to Lord William Russell in the Tower,’ which was purchased by Mr. Vernon, formed part of ‘The Vernon Gallery,’ and is now in the National Gallery (engraved by T. L. Atkinson and C. H. Jeens). Johnston was still an exhibitor in 1884. He died at 21 Carlingford Road, Hampstead, after a short illness, on 2 Feb. 1891. His son, Douglas Johnston, a musician of some promise in Glasgow, predeceased him.

Johnston died at 21 Carlingford Road, Hampstead, after a short illness, on 2 February 1891. His son, Douglas Johnston, a musician in Glasgow, predeceased him.

[Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 30, by Lionel Henry Cust; Art Journal, 1857; Ottley's Dict. of Recent and Living Painters; obituary notices.]


JOHNSTON, Alexander. This capable artist was born in Scotland in 1815. He was a pupil of the Trustees Academy of Edinburgh, and later on came to London and entered the Academy Schools. He began to exhibit in 1835, and continued to do so up to the time of his death in 1891. His best-known pictures are, 'The Gentle Shepherd' (1840), 'Sunday Morning,' 'The Last Sacrament of Lord Russell in the Tower,' which is now in the Tate Gallery, and 'Preparing for Conquest' (1878). He exhibited largely at the Paris Exhibition of 1878, and his work attracted some considerable attention in Paris, where hitherto it had been wholly unknown. His composition was sound and his drawing accurate, while his works were by no means lacking in poetic force and in sterling character. His expression of features was generally considered as too severe, and he seldom expressed joy or happiness, being more attracted by the pathetic, sad, and even dour side of nature, but there is a certain stateliness about his work which is easily marked and which proclaims him a strong and powerful painter.

Bryan's Dictionary of Painters and Engravers, 1876 - Reprinted, 1894, 1899



Alexander Johnston, was born in Scotland, 1815. Pupil of the Trustees Academy of Edinburgh, and later of the schools of the Royal Academy. Began to exhibit, about 1835, portraits and historical figure pictures. Among his earlier works are:
"The Mother's Grave," in 1839;
"The Gentle Shepherd," in 1840;
"The Covenanter's Marriage," in 1842;
"Prince Charley and Flora Macdonald," in 1847;
"The Trial of Archbishop Laud," in 1849;
"Tyndal translating the Bible," in 1854;
"John Bunyan in Bedford Jail," in 1861; and
"The Land o' the Leal," in 1863.
His "Press-Gang" was in the International Exhibition of 1862, and his "Last Sacrament of Lord Russell in the Tower," painted in 1845, (belonging to the Vernon Collection), is now in the National Gallery of London.
He sent to the Royal Academy:
in 1868, "The Billet-Doux";
in 1870, "Juliet";
in 1871, "Isaac Watts and his Mother";
in 1873, "The Turning-Point";
in 1874, "Tired";
in 1875, "Ought I to do it?";
in 1876, "Bonnie Lesley" and "The Kettledrum-Quadrille";
in 1877, "A Waif";
in 1878, "Preparing for Conquest."
His "Turning-Point" was at the Paris Exposition of 1878.

"The figure 'II Penseroso,' by Alexander Johnston, R. A., 1870, [shown in the Art Journal] is of a nun, of stately and dignified form, who has walked forth in the evening twilight and stands fixed in contemplation of the heavens. The conception is fine, and the expression of the face, though somewhat severe, is appropriate to the sentiment. The license taken by the artist in the landscape affects in no degree the excellence of the composition as an example throughout of good and sound painting and of poetic feeling." -- Art Journal, May, 1.

Artists of the Nineteenth Century, their Works, Biographical Sketches, Clara Erskine Clement and Laurence Hutton, 1879.



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