Artist: William Bruce Ellis Ranken

Date of Birth:
Date of Death:
Place of Death:
Residence in Dumfries & Galloway:

Exhibited at Royal Scottish Academy 1912-1920 from Dalswinton House, Dumfries. His family rented Dalswinton from 1901 to 1920


Slade, London

Professional Bodies:

NPS 1910, ROI 1910, RI 1915, RP 1916, VPROI 1919, PS 1920

Exhibited At:

Royal Academy; Royal Scottish Academy; Royal Institute of Oil Painters; Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours; Liverpool; Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts


John Singer Sargent, Baron De Meyer


Web site


An immensely prolific artist, he worked equally in oil, watercolour and pastel.  His work included portraits, interiors, landscapes and still life.  His subjects included members of the British Royal Family, the Aristocracy and American Society.  Joseph, Lord Duveen said “Mr Ranken is one of the few painters of the present day who shows in his work a genuine love of the gorgeous, the stately and the splendid”.  According to Duveen, John Singer Sargent said Ranken’s work “combines freshness with accuracy”.  Ranken’s work is represented in the majority of public art galleries in the UK.

Exhibited at:

Belfast Art Gallery
Bradford Art Gallery
Brighton Art Gallery
Carfax Gallery
Derby Art Gallery
Doll & Richards Gallery, Boston, USA
Ferargil Galleries, New York, USA
Fine Arts Gallery, Bristol
Grosvenor Gallery
Huddersfield Art Gallery
Leeds Art Gallery;
M Knoedler & Co, Galleries, New York, USA
Modern Society of Portrait Painters
National Portrait Society
New English Art Club
Oldham Art Gallery
Royal Society of Portrait Painters
Royal West of England Academy
Scottish Gallery
Slade School Exhibition
Societe National des Beaux Arts, Paris
Society of Portrait Painters
T & R Annan & Sons Gallery, Glasgow
The Arts Club of Chicago, USA
The Goupil Gallery
The International Society
The Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York, USA
The Paster Society
The Royal Institute Galleries,
The Royal Institution, Liverpool
Venice International Exhibition of Fine Arts
Whitechapel Gallery
Wildenstein & Co,. Inc. Galleries, New York, USA.
Rights of images retained by original source.

William Ranken was born at 8 Learmonth Terrace, Edinburgh in 1881, the third son of Robert Burt Ranken, a prosperous Writer to the Signet, and his wife Mary Witherington Ranken (née Dunlop).  His early childhood was spent at Philiphaugh House, Selkirk and later at Penicuik House.  He was educated at Eton and at the Slade School of Art in London.

Around 1899 his Family took up residence at Dalswinton House, just north of Dumfries, which they occupied for the next twenty years.  The House, its estate and the surrounding areas became a source of inspiration to Ranken.  He first exhibited in 1901 at the New English Art Club and in 1904 he had his first one-man exhibition at the then prestigious Carfax Gallery in London which received enthusiastic reviews, with particular reference being made to his ‘In the Park, Dalswinton’ (whereabouts unknown) which was illustrated in colour in ‘The Studio’ magazine (see photo).  He subsequently exhibited widely at all the major artistic Societies and Galleries in Great Britain and in the period to 1919 many of his works, both in oil and watercolour, included subjects associated with Dumfriesshire and in particular Dalswinton, such as ‘The Policeman’s Garden, Dalswinton’, ‘The Saw Mill, Dalswinton’, ‘Stormy Evening, Dalswinton’, ‘Dalswinton Village’, ‘On Sandbed Farm, Dalswinton’, ‘Dalswinton Loch, Autumn afternoon’, ‘A Little Garden at Auldgirth’, ‘Azalea Mollis in the drawing room at Dalswinton’, ‘Mrs Kelsey in the garden at Dalswinton’, ‘Mrs Kelsey on the roof at Dalswinton’, ‘On the lawn, Dalswinton’, ‘Wild Hyacinths, Dalswinton’, ‘Oak trees on the road to Dumfries’, ‘Valley of the Nith’, ‘The Old Bridge, Dumfries’, ‘Old Houses on the Nith, Maxwelltown’, ‘Beech Trees at harvest, near Kirkton’, ‘September flowers from a Dumfriesshire garden’ and so forth.

His magnificent oil painting ‘Water Lilies at Dalswinton’ (private collection, USA), exhibited at The Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1910 and subsequently at The Royal Scottish Academy in 1911, is one of his finest works (see photo), widely acclaimed  at the time, with the critic of ‘The Observer’ noting it to be ‘as decorative as Monet’s famous ‘Nymphées’.  Although many paintings by Ranken are held in public collections, the only one associated with his Dalswinton period is his ‘Mrs Kelsey in pink in the drawing room at Dalswinton’ (see photo) which is to be found at the City of York Art Gallery, but unfortunately not on display.

Ranken subsequently established his studio at 14 Cheltenham Terrace in Chelsea and acquired the impressive Warbrook House at Eversley, Hampshire.  He travelled widely, was particularly successful in the USA and continued to exhibit extensively until his untimely death in London in 1941.  A retrospective exhibition was held at the Ferargil Galleries in New York the following year.  A website dedicated to his life and work is to be found at

(written by Gordon & Wendy Hawksley)