Elected ARSA: 15 December 1841

Elected RSA: 10 February 1860

John Ballantyne, R.S.A., was born in 1815 at Kelso. He was a son of Alexander Ballantyne, an intimate friend of Sir Walter Scott, and a brother of John and James Ballantyne, the printers of the early editions of the Waverley Novels. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy, and entered the Board of Trustees’ School as a student under Sir

William Allan and Thomas Duncan.


At the age of sixteen he exhibited for the first time in the Royal Scottish Academy. Thereafter he studied in London, Paris, and Rome. In1839 he returned to Edinburgh and painted a succession of portraits, and numerous historical and other pictures, nearly all of which appeared on the walls of the Royal Scottish Academy. Here moved to London in 1864, but continued his contributions to the Academy until 1887, when he ceased to exhibit.


Among his numerous historical and genre pictures may be mentioned “ Horatius returning in triumph to Rome” (1839), “Roman Contadini” (1839), “Herodius receiving the Head of John the Baptist” (1843), “ Queen Elizabeth at the Death-bed of the Countess of Nottingham” (1849), “The Village Well” (1850), “Mischief” (1857), “Punch” (1858), “King James First of Scotland and his Unruly Barons” (1859), his Diploma Work, “A Greek Head” (1861), and “Maiden Meditations” (1887). Among his works in portraiture are “Sir Adam Ferguson” (1838), “Sir Charles Bell and Miss Kilberry ” (1840), “The Lord Advocate” (1857), “ Thomas Faed” (1866); and a series of portraits in 1867 of the following painters in their studios.


Sir Noél Paton, R.S.A.; John Phillip, R.A.; Sir Francis Grant, P.R.A.; Sir George Harvey, P.R.S.A.; and Holman Hunt. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1841 and an Academician in 1866. When resident in Edinburgh he was for some years a teacher in the Board of Trustees’ School of Art, when, along with Robert Scott Lauder, R.S.A., he was Preceptor of the Life School. Many of the students of the school at that time now occupy distinguished positions in their profession.


After his removal to London he was also for a number of years Curator of the Life School of the Royal Academy of Arts. Since 1883 he resided at Melksham, Wiltshire, where he died on 12th May.


RSA Obituary, transcribed from 1897 RSA Annual Report