Artist: William Robson

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

Moved to Kirkcudbright 1904. Exhibited Royal Scottish Academy from Woodlea, Kirkcudbright, 1905 and 1906; Arden, Twynholm, 1907-1912, before settling in Kirkcudbright. He exhibited from Old Kings Arms 1925, later 52 High Street, purchased 1920.


Edinburgh; France; Italy

Professional Bodies:

1902 Chairman Society of Scottish Artists

Exhibited At:

Royal Scottish Academy; Royal Academy; Royal Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts; Aberdeen Artists’ Society; Liverpool


Kirkcudbright: one hundred years of an artists’ colony, Patrick Bourne, Atelier Books, Edinburgh, 2000. William Robson, Bourne Fine Art (exhibition catalogue) From Capri to Kirkcudbright, the Life and Work of William Robson 1863-1950, Haig Gordon , 2005; Tales of the Kirkcudbright Artists, Haig Gordon, Kirkcudbright, 2006


Image of the artist, Stewartry Museum 


Landscape and seascape painter. Married a local fisherman’s daughter in Capri and came to Kirkcudbright in 1904. Shared a studio with the English etcher William P Robins. References to Robson as lifeboatman and associated with St Cuthbert Wanderers in Stewartry Museum file. Contains photo of etching of Robson by Cumbrian artist, Joseph Simpson. Also copies of correspondence belonging to Beryl Moultrie, particularly from his time as President of Scottish Artists Club, 1902. His A Sunlit Garden, Twynholm is illustrated in Bourne p62; High Street, Kirkcudbright p97 (see bibliography). Exhibition catalogue (see bibliography) includes Harold Speed’s portrait of Robson and 26 Sunset, Galloway, 27 Sunlit Garden in Twynholm, 28 Galloway Woods with Children.

On the 31st May 1863 Eliza Richardson housekeeper to a well-to-do Edinburgh lawyer, George Sinclair had a son William.  When Sinclair died he left an estate, Dalreoch, in Ayrshire to William and his sister Clair.  It was a condition of the bequest that William change his name to Robson.  The income from the estate allowed Bill Robson to devote his life to art.

Robson studied in Paris before moving to Italy, where he settled on the island of Capri marrying Carmella Spadaro, the daughter of a local fisherman.  In 1896 the Robsons returned to Scotland with their growing family and settled in Edinburgh.  Here Bill was chairman of the Society of Scottish Artists in 1902.  His growing circle of acquaintances brought him into contact with the Kircudbright artists.  He first came to the town on holiday and was attracted both by the opportunities to paint and the chance to fish and shoot, and soon decided to settle locally.  From 1904 to 1907 he, Carmella and their seven children lived in Mouncey’s former house, Woodlea in Kirkcudbright, before moving to Arden, Twynholm.  Finally in 1920 the Robsons moved to 52 High Street, Kirkcudbright, the former King’s Arms Inn, which became the social centre of the artists’ colony.

Bill Robson exhibited regularly at the Royal Scottish Academy and the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts and from time to time at the Royal Academy in London.  While he often worked in pastel, paintings such as a Sunlit Garden, Twynholm are representative of his time in the village; other large works in oil such as his paintings of Lairdmannoch capture not only the Galloway countryside in August but one of the places he loved to fish and shoot.

Bill Robson played a full part in the life of Kirkcudbright.  For over twenty years he was president of the local St Cuthberts Football Club and was also for many years a member of the local life boat crew.  Bill and Carmella died within three days of each other in 1950.  On hearing of their deaths from Charles Oppenheimer their old friend Dorothy L Sayers concluded her letter to their daughter Clair with the words:  “They were always so sweet to me when I came round to see you all, only the other day I was thinking of your mother in her tomato house, and all the ferns she used to cultivate in her Chianti bottles”