The History of Leith

January 17, 2012

John Kay (1742-1826)

The miniature-painter and caricaturist John Kay was born near Dalkeith, Midlothian, in April 1742. The son of a mason, he was apprenticed at the age of thirteen to George Heriot, a barber in Dalkeith. Six years later, he moved to Edinburgh where he continued to work as a journeyman barber. In 1771 he was enrolled a member of the Society of Surgeon-Barbers and set up in business on his own account. In his spare time, however, he began to produce highly original portrait sketches and caricatures of Edinburgh characters, despite having received no formal training in drawing. He attracted the patronage of William Nisbet of Dirleton, who settled an annuity upon him, and in 1785 was finally able to give up his trade for art. Kay opened a shop in Parliament Close where he sold his etchings. From 1784 to 1822 he is calculated to have etched nearly nine hundred plates portraying many of the most notable Scotsmen of the day. for more click here

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