Erskine Nicol ARA (1825-1904)

Engraving after Erskine Nicol.

The painter Erskine Nicol was born in Leith, Scotland, and overcoming early strong resistance from his parents to an artist's life, he took all opportunities to pursue art, first taking an apprenticeship under a decorative house painter, then aged 12 becoming a student at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh, under William Allan and Thomas Duncan. A spell back in Leith as a drawing instructor at a local school was followed by four years in Ireland (from 1846) as a teacher and portrait painter. It was there that he found his metier, painting humorous character studies and genre scenes of the Irish working classes. These won him a high degree of popularity, though today the idea of the Irish as mirthful country bumpkins perhaps sits less easily with the majority taste. Back in Scotland, in 1851 he exhibited a half dozen such works at the Royal Scottish Academy, followed by a stream of others. He became RSA in 1859, went to live in London in 1862 (though making yearly trips to Ireland), and was elected ARA in 1868. He retired from the Academy in 1885, and went back to Scotland, and later on to Feltham in Middlesex. Two sons - John Watson Nicol and Erskine E Nicol - also became painters.

Nicol's painting The Emigrants (1864), showing a poor couple waiting in a railway station, is in the Tate Britain, and is one of the original works in Henry Tate's collection. His not atypical Paddy's Mark, an engraving of which is above, seems generally deemed inappropriate to show at Leeds.

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