Edinburgh artist David Roberts was born - On this day in Scottish history


24 October 2021
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Edinburgh painter David Roberts was born on 24 October 1796.

Scottish artist David Roberts was born on 24 October 1796 in Edinburgh. He began his career as a scenery painter at the Pantheon Theatre in Edinburgh and Glasgow's Theatre Royal, later travelling by sea to London to work at the Coburg Theatre (which became the Old Vic) in 1822.

Roberts met his future wife, actress Margaret Machlachlan, whilst working at Glasgow's Theatre Royal and the pair married in 1820 and had one daughter. In his later years, Roberts travelled extensively, with his tour of Egypt and the Holy Land inspiring some of his finest works, such as The Destruction of Jerusalem and Street in Cairo.

Roberts was known for his interest in photography and the image of him shown here is one of the country's oldest photographs. He died on 25 November 1864 whilst at work on a painting at St Pauls Cathedral.

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David Roberts timeline

  • 24 October 1796 - Born in Edinburgh
  • 1806 - Apprenticed as a housepainter
  • 1816 - Begins work at Edinburgh's Pantheon Theatre
  • 1820 - Married Margaret Machlachlan
  • 1822 - Started work at London's Old Vic Theatre
  • 1831 - Becomes President of the Society of British Artists
  • 1838 - Sets sail for Egypt
  • 1842 - Starts work with lithographer Louis Haghe
  • 1858 - Presented with the freedom of the City of Edinburgh
  • 25 November 1864 - Died whilst painting at St Paul's Cathedral