Artist: Jemima Wedderburn

Maiden Name:
Married name Blackburn
Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
Cousin of James Clerk Maxwell
Residence in Dumfries & Galloway:

Visited her aunt and uncle at Glenlair, the home of the parents of the celebrated scientist James Clerk Maxwell also her aunt and uncle at St Mary’s Isle, Kirkcudbright

Exhibited At:

Royal Academy; Royal Scottish Academy


Jemima: paintings and memoirs of a Victorian lady, Rob Fairley, Canongate, Edinburgh, 1988.

Image, photograph of the artist at work courtesy of Rob Fairley

The 175th anniversary of the birth of James Clerk Maxwell was celebrated with events in Galloway on 13th June 2006


Friend and cousin of the scientist James Clerk Maxwell. Married Hugh Blackburn, Professor of Mathematics at Glasgow University. Recently many volumes of her sketch books have come to light. The National Gallery of Scotland has five drawings, three of which appear to be in the parish church, Kirkcudbright. The James Clerk Maxwell Foundation in Edinburgh also has a number of Jemima Wedderburn watercolours relating to visits to Glenlair, the childhood home of James Clerk Maxwell and St Mary’s Isle. For more information on the James Clerk Maxwell Foundation and the events celebrating the 175th anniversary of the birth of James Clerk Maxwell visit the web site



Jemima Wedderburn (1823-1909), whose father was Solicitor General for Scotland and whose mother was a member of the celebrated Clerk of Penicuick family was best known during her lifetime as a painter of birds and animals. However, she has become better known as a prolific artist, who sketched almost daily, producing large numbers of works of personal and social significance, many of which have only recently come to light.  Jemima numbered among her friends some of the most distinguished personalities of her day such as Wellington and Disraeli, the author Trollope and the artists Landseer, Peter Graham and J E Millais as well as the critic Ruskin.

Married to Hugh Blackburn, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow her greatest love was the West Highlands and the estate of Roshven, which the Blackburns bought in 1854.  However, she had a significant connection with Dumfries and Galloway, which she visited and recorded on a number of occasions. Her aunt and uncle owned the St Mary’s Isle estate at Kirkcudbright.  Drawings such as those depicting curling at St Mary’s Isle or riding near the harbour record episodes of daily life in Galloway at that time, which would be otherwise unrecorded.

Jemima also came to Galloway to visit her first cousin James Clerk Maxwell and her paintings of visits to Glenlair, the Clerk Maxwells’ Galloway home, give us a unique insight into the famous scientist’s early life. She also recorded his arrival at her family’s Edinbugh home, where he lodged, while he attended the Edinburgh Academy and other episodes including a visit to Roshven.