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Houston, John Adam

John Adam Plimmer Houston RSA RI  (1812 - 1884) was born in Gwydyr Castle, Wales, of a Scottish family. His family moved north when John was a schoolboy - his father was a small manufacturer in Renfrewshire and his mother distantly related to the Naismith family.

Houston attended the Royal Scottish Academy school and, in his third year, won the drawing prize.   He was a painter of historical scenes and narrative works. In 1841 he moved to Edinburgh, after travelling extensively in France, Germany and Italy. He spent time in the Highlands and in the 1850s moved towards a pre-Raphaelite style, having studied for a time with Walter Hugh Paton.  (Walter Hugh Paton spent sketching holidays with his brother on Arran, so perhaps Houston accompanied him there on occasion).

Houston’s watercolours , often of wild Highland landscapes, are ‘well composed, warm and luminous, and more modern in character than the rest of his work.  He possesses refined and poetic feeling, his manner of painting is decisive yet delicate, and his colouring brilliant, harmonious and quietly effective. His aim is to do well rather than much’  (writes James Dafforne in Art Journal).

He was elected to ARI in 1874, RI in 1879, ROI in 1883, ARSA in 1842 and RSA in 1845. His work is represented in National Gallery of Scotland, Ashmolean, Glasgow Art Galleries and Maidstone Art Gallery.


The Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture by Peter JM McEwan

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