Mary Cameron (painter)

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Mary Margaret Cameron
Mary Cameron, Painter, In her studio, probably in Spain.jpg
Mary Cameron in her studio
Born(1865-03-03)3 March 1865
Died21 February 1921(1921-02-21) (aged 55)
Turnhouse, Scotland
Alma materTrustees Drawing Academy
Notable work
Portrait de Mme. Blair et ses borzois
Spouse(s)Alexis Millar

Mary Margaret Cameron (9 March 1865 – 15 February 1921) was a Scottish artist, renowned for her depictions of everyday Spanish life. She exhibited 54 works at the Royal Scottish Academy between 1886 and 1919.

Early Life and education[edit]

Mrs. Blair with her Dogs
The grave of the Cameron family, Dean Cemetery

Mary Margaret Cameron[1] was born on 9 March 1865 in Portobello in Edinburgh, the third of six children of Mary Brown Small and Duncan Cameron.[2] Her father was associated with the Edinburgh printing and stationery firm of Macniven and Cameron and the inventor of the "Waverley" pen-nib.[1] Her father also owned The Oban Times newspaper. Her mother was a member of the Smalls of Dirnanean of Perthshire. Cameron was the younger sister of Flora Macaulay – widow of the Rev Robert Blair – who was editor of The Oban Times newspaper until her death in 1958, aged 99.

Cameron first began her art education at the age of 16 through the Trustees Drawing Academy of Edinburgh, winning prizes from the age of 17.[3] She took classes at the Edinburgh Veterinary College to perfect her understanding of animal anatomy,[3] and developed a particular skill for depicting horses. This reflected her early interest in unusual subject matter, and was helped by her ability to use her own horse as a model.[3]


In 1900, Cameron travelled to Madrid in Spain to study the work of 17th-century Spanish painter, Diego Velázquez.[4] She fell in love with the country, its people and culture. She painted many Spanish scenes, particularly bullfights,[1] and lived for a time in Madrid and Seville. She generated controversy in her native Scotland over her realistic portrayal of the sometimes brutal bullfighting scenes.[5]


Cameron was a member of the Edinburgh Ladies' Art Club and was later involved with the Royal Scottish Academy.[3] She exhibited 56 works at the RSA between 1886 and 1919.[6][7] Her painting, Portrait de Mme. Blair et ses borzois received a "Mention Honorable" at the Paris Salon in 1904.[8] The winning portrait depicted her sister Flora with her two Russian Borzoi dogs at either side.[3] The painting, along with one of Cameron's Spanish paintings, was published in the book Women Painters of the World (1905).[9]

In addition to being a talented artist, Cameron was also a capable linguist, and spoke French and Spanish fluently.[3][10] She also had a good knowledge of German and Italian, and knew enough Russian to read and translate it.[3]

On 30 June 1905 Cameron married Alexis Millar, a horse dealer and jobmaster from Edinburgh, at St Martin-in-the-Fields in London.[11] Mary Cameron died at Turnhouse, a hamlet to the west of the Edinburgh, on 15 February 1921,[10] and is buried in Dean Cemetery in Edinburgh. The grave lies in the obscured southern terrace, towards the east end.


Cameron has a small number of paintings in the British national collections. A portrait of Cameron at work in her studio, by John Brown Abercromby, is held by the National Gallery of Scotland.[12]


  1. ^ a b c Reynolds, Sian (2007). Paris-Edinburgh: Cultural Connections in the Belle Epoque. Aldershot, Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 61.
  2. ^ "Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564–1950". Family Search, Church of Latter Day Saints. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Helland, Janice (2000). Professional women painters in nineteenth-century Scotland : commitment, friendship, pleasure. Aldershot [u.a.]: Ashgate. pp. 151–169. ISBN 0754600688.
  4. ^ Strang, Alice (2015). Modern Scottish Women: Painters and Sculptors 1885–1965. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland. p. 42. ISBN 9781906270896.
  5. ^ "Mary Cameron, Scotch Artist, is Severely Criticised for Painting Spanish Bull Fights". The Milwaukee Sentinel. 17 July 1910. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
  6. ^ "McTear's Auctioners". Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  7. ^ Ballin, Ada S. (1904). Womanhood, Volume 12. Office of Womanhood, Strand, London, England. p. 109. Retrieved 16 February 2014.
  8. ^ Caw, Sir James Lewis (1908). Scottish painting, past and present, 1620–1908. Edinburgh, Scotland: T. C. and E. C. Jack. p. 429. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
  9. ^ "Women Painters of the World". 1905. pp. 124, 131, 155, .CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  10. ^ a b "Births, Deaths, Marriages". The Scotsman, Edinburgh Scotland. 18 February 1921. p. 10.
  11. ^ Cameron, Mary, Millar, Alexis, London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597–1921,, Salt Lake City, UT, USA
  12. ^ "National Galleries of Scotland Collections Digitisation - John Brown Abercromby; Mary Cameron, Artist (in..." National Galleries of Scotland Collections Digitisation. Retrieved 15 July 2018.

External links[edit]