(b Murdieston House, Lanarkshire, 1723; d Rome, 4 Jan. 1798). Scottish painter, archaeologist, and picture-dealer. He visited Italy in 1748–50 and in 1756 settled permanently in Rome (although he made visits to Britain), becoming a leading member of the Neoclassical circle of Mengs and Winckelmann. As an artist he concentrated on history paintings, and he is one of the few British artists of his time (with Barry and the Anglo-Americans Copley and West) to make a significant contribution in this field. He was particularly drawn to Homeric subjects, in his treatment of which he was influenced by Poussin as well as by the antique (Achilles Lamenting the Death of Patroclus, 1763, NG, Edinburgh). His pictures in this vein were never very numerous and today are generally regarded as ponderous, but they became well known through engravings, and greatly influenced the development of the Neoclassical style amongst both his contemporaries and the younger generation, including J.
Text source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)