The Madras College Archive


Former Pupil Biographies

Robert Inerarity Herdman (1829 - 1888)

Robert Inerarity Herdman R.S.A., R.S.W
(17 September 1829 10 January 1888) was an artist specialising in portraiture and historical compositions. He is also remembered for a series of pastoral scenes featuring young girls.

Herdman was born in Rattray near Blairgowrie in Perthshire, the fourth and youngest son of the Rev, William Herdman, minister of the parish; his mother was a daughter of the minister of Collessie, Fife.  His three brothers all became ministers.

He was educated at the parish school at Rattray but on the death of his father in 1838 the family moved to St Andrews where he studied for 5 sessions at Madras College, gaining a bursary.

He is known to have originally studied Divinity at the University of St. Andrews but abandoned this. For a time in 1846 he taught drawing in St Andrews and came to Edinburgh in 1847 to train under Robert Scott Lauder R.S.A. and John Ballantyne R.S.A. as an artist. He was a friend of Professor John Stuart Blackie who instilled in him a love of the Celtic Revival reflected in his later works. In 1854 he won the R.S.A.'s Keith Prize and bronze medal for the best historical work by a student in the exhibition. He travelled to Italy the following year to continue his studies.

He received commissions from most Scottish city councils, and is work is found in many galleries including the Royal Scottish Academy and National Portrait Gallery, London.

He began to exhibit in 1850 and was elected an Associate of the R.S.A. in 1861, becoming a Fellow in 1863. He exhibited at the Royal Academy and British Institution in London 18611887. He exhibited in Philadelphia in 1876 and Paris in 1878.

He lived mainly in Edinburgh and died in Bruntsfield in Edinburgh. He is buried there in the Grange Cemetery on the outer side of the northern slope to the central vaults.

He married Emma Abbott in 1857.

In 'The Madras College' Dr Thompson wrote:

"Among artists Robert Herdman R.S.A. was, and still is, respected as a portrait painter and painter of historical scenes."