Earlier career of Alexander Runciman and the influences that shaped his style
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Alexander Runciman was in his mid-thirties before he adopted the monumental style of history painting on which his reputation has always been held to rest. What may be called the formative part of his career was therefore unusually extended. This thesis is a study of his development during this time, its background, and the sources from which derived his ideas on painting. This part of his life culminated in the monumental paintings that he did for Sir James Clerk of Penicuik in 1772 and the related work in the Cowgate Chapel, Edinburgh. These were the most important of all his works and were unique in eighteenth century painting. In them he combined the grand style that he had learned during the four years that he spent in Rome, with the native Scottish tradition of decorative painting in which he had been trained. The thesis therefore falls into three parts. The first (Chaps.1-7) deals with his life and background in Edinburgh; the second (Chaps.8-15) with his four years in Rome; and the third (Chaps.16-18) with the works that he carried out on his return to Edinburgh. In the first part attention is given in Chapters 1 to 3 to the men of the older generation from whom he may have learnt not only his style, but also his ambitions as a painter. Chapters 4 and 5 deal with the circles in which he moved among his own contemporaries, and the last two chapters in this part with his own and his younger brother. John's work in Edinburgh before they left for Rome in 1767. In the second part the first three chapters(S-10) cover the brothers' stay in Rome up to John's death late in 1768, or early in 1769. Following this event Alexander became determined to succeed, not merely as a landscape and decorative painter, but in monumental history painting. Chapter 11 is a discussion of the work of Gavin Hamilton and of James Barry, the two painters who influenced him most at this time. This discussion is extended in Appendix D which deals more fully with the work of Gavin Hamilton. Chapters 12-14 are an account of Runciman's first works in the new manner, with particular attention to his proposals for the decoration of Penicuik House. Chapter 15 deals with his relationship to Henry Fuseli at the end of his Roman stay. The last three chapters give an account of the circumstances in which he finally carried out his work at Penicuik, and of the pictures themselves. As they were destroyed by fire in 1899 Chapter 18 and part of Chapter 19 are devoted to a reconstruction of their appearance. The thesis concludes with a discussion of his work in the Cowgate Chapel. The part of this which survives is all that is left of his monumental work.