Sholto Johnstone Douglas
Robert Sholto Johnstone Douglas (3 December 1871 – 10 March 1958), known as Sholto Douglas, or more formally as Sholto Johnstone Douglas, was a Scottish figurative artist, a painter chiefly of portraits and landscapes.
Douglas was born in Edinburgh, a member of the aristocratic Queensberry family, part of the Clan Douglas. He was the son of A. H. Johnstone Douglas DL JP of Lockerbie (1846–1923) and his wife Jane Maitland Stewart, and the grandson of Robert Johnstone Douglas of Lockerbie, himself the son of Henry Alexander Douglas, a brother of the sixth and seventh Marquesses of Queensberry. His paternal grandmother, Lady Jane Douglas (1811–1881), was herself a daughter of Charles Douglas, 6th Marquess of Queensberry, so she was her husband's first cousin. Douglas's third cousin and contemporary John Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry (1844–1900) was famous for the rules of the sport of boxing. Another cousin was Lady Florence Dixie, the war correspondent and big game hunter.
Douglas's cousin Lord Alfred Douglas, or 'Bosie', was a close friend of the writer Oscar Wilde. When Wilde sued Bosie's father for libel when accused of "posing as a somdomite" (sic), this led to Wilde's downfall and imprisonment. In 1895, when during his trial Wilde was released on bail, Sholto Johnstone Douglas stood surety for £500 of the bail money.
In his Noel Coward: A Biography (1996), Philip Hoare writes of "...late nineteenth-century enthusiasts of boy-love; writers, artists and Catholic converts inclined to intellectual paedophilia, among them Wilde, Frederick Rolfe, Sholto Douglas and Lord Alfred Douglas." Hoare has here confused Sholto Johnstone Douglas with Rolfe's sometime friend Sholto Osborne Gordon Douglas (1873-1934).
Life and work
He was at home in Scotland as a painter and as a sportsman, shooting, riding and sailing. He kept ponies brought back from a visit to Iceland. He came to attention at the Royal Academy by being the first artist to hang a painting there of a motor car, but was best known for his portraits and his Scottish landscapes, which "...portrayed, with a truly poetic sense of atmosphere, the subtle half-tones of his native countryside".
In 1897, Douglas visited Australia and New Zealand. His uncle John Douglas, a former Premier of Queensland and Governor of New Guinea, arranged for the author R. W. Semon to take Douglas with him on a visit to New Guinea. Semon wrote "This young Scotsman was just then staying with his uncle on Thursday Island, being on his way back to Europe after a voyage to Australia and New Zealand."
In 1904, London's Temple Bar magazine reported
We cannot leave the exhibition without noting the astonishingly successful treatment of light in the speaking portrait of Madame Besnard, full of fine drawing, ease, and originality, which M. Besnard has given us, nor the poetically suggestive beauty of The Sisters by Sholto Douglas, in which a reminiscence of one of Whistler's lovely Nocturnes is aroused."
"Mr. Sholto Johnstone Douglas exhibited a collection of his portraits. The artist is apparently a prey to indecision in the matter of style, many influences, from Romsey [sic] to Wilson Steer, being apparent. Marquise?, Mrs. Russell Bryde, Study for a Portrait Group, and The Lady Kinross, however, were portraits of some distinction.
In Scottish Painting, Past and Present, 1620-1908 (1908), James Lewis Caw wrote of Douglas's portrait work:
Mr Sholto Johnstone Douglas unites Whistlerian tone and chicness of brushwork with a good deal of old-fashioned likeness-making. His work, however, is somewhat lacking in that straightforward, if often undistinguished, grasp of character which gives much old-fashioned art an
interest of its own, and frequently it fails to reach the conventional distinction possessed by much modern portraiture. Still, this combination of qualities makes his portraiture acceptable to those who care for neither of these elements alone, and, a scion of a Dumfriesshire county family, he has painted many people of social standing.
However, Caw says elsewhere in the same book
In 1909, The International Studio said of a painting
"Mr. Sholto Douglas experimented perhaps beyond his powers, but in A Day in June he secured a lively and expressive rendering of the faces; just the qualities which Mr. David Neave missed, for his success with accessories seems to beguile his brush away from the sitters.
On 9 November 1912, under the headline 'Sholto J. Douglas Coming Here', the New York Times reported Douglas's sailing from London for the United States, having "a number of commissions to paint portraits in New York".
In December 1921, the novelist Arnold Bennett noted in his journal that on Boxing Day he had lunched with Douglas and his wife at the Hotel Bristol in Cannes to meet the Polish singer Jean de Reszke.
Though Marchbanks has many of the external characteristics and some of the attitudes of the aesthete-artist such as Sholto Douglas or Adrian Herbert, he does not pay mere lip-service to art, his sensitivity is no pose, and he tries to rid himself of illusions.
Marriage and descendants
On 19 April 1913, Douglas married Bettina, the daughter of Harman Grisewood, of Daylesford, Gloucestershire. They had one son and one daughter, Robert Arthur Sholto Johnstone-Douglas (born 4 February 1914) and Elizabeth Gwendolen Teresa Johnstone-Douglas (born 2 June 1916).
Douglas's daughter Elizabeth married, firstly, in 1954, William Craven, 6th Earl of Craven, and became the mother of Thomas, 7th Earl of Craven (1957–1983), Simon, 8th Earl of Craven (1961–1990), and Lady Ann Mary Elizabeth Craven (born 1959); and the grandmother of Benjamin Craven, 9th Earl of Craven (born 1989).
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- Caw, p. 431
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- Blaikley, Ernest, & Noble, Frankland, A Concise Catalogue of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture of the First World War, 1914-1918 (London: HMSO for the Imperial War Museum, 2nd edition, 1963), pp. 89-90
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