Erskine Nicol
Irish-Scots Figure Painter. Biography, Paintings.

Good News. 1866

Erskine Nicol RSA ARA (1825-1904)

The Irish-Scots figure painter Erskine Nicol, was born in Leith, Scotland. After a short time as a house painters apprentice, he attended the Trustees' Academy at 12 years of age, studying painting and drawing under Thomas Duncan and William Allen. A short appointment as an art teacher at a local Leith school was followed by a 4-year stint as an art master in Dublin. Nicol supplemented his teaching stipend by painting portraits. It was in Ireland that Erskine Nicol found his true style, executing figurative scenes, landscapes and genre studies of the Irish people. In addition, he was one of the few painters of his time to portray the horrors of famine, eviction and emigration in nineteenth-century Ireland.

The Emigrants. 1864

For a guide to genre artists
like Erskine Nicol, see:
Irish Genre Painters.

Returning to Scotland in 1851, he showed a series of such paintings at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA). He became an RSA academician in 1859, then went to live in London in 1862 where, six years later, he was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy (RA). During this time, he returned regularly to Ireland to paint and exhibited his art several times at the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA).

In 1885, he retired from the Royal Academy in London, and went to Scotland before finally settling in Feltham, London. Erskine's two sons - John Watson Nicol and Erskine E Nicol - followed their father and became artists.


Erskine Nicol's paintings are represented in a number of public and private collections, including the British Museum, Tate Art Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum, Aberdeen Art Gallery, Dundee Art Gallery, Glasgow Art Gallery, Ulster Museum and the National Gallery of Ireland, among others.

Most Expensive Painting by Erskine Nicol

The auction record for a work by Erskine Nicol was set in 2007, when his marine painting entitled Salmon Fishing was sold at Sotheby's, in London, for £48,000.

More Information About Visual Arts in Ireland

• For details of other figure painters, see: Irish Artists: Paintings and Biographies.
• For more about figurative painters like Erskine Nicol, see: Irish Art Guide.
• For more about figurative art, see: Homepage.

History of Irish Art
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