People of Angus
George Paul Chalmers - The Angus Rembrandt
George Paul Chalmers was born at No. 114 in ‘Duncan’s Close’, later ‘Irvine’s Close’ off Castlegait, 12th November, 1833. He was the son of Stewart Chalmers and Mary Torrie. He was educated in Montrose and later apprenticed to a ship’s chandler. He hated the work and left to go to Edinburgh, where he managed to obtain admission to the Trustees’ Academy, then directed by Robert Scott Lander.
He was a charming companion and a very loveable friend, a little under the average height, and thin in appearance. He had a beautiful face, with a full brow, and large eyes, which beamed with refined intelligence. He was a very gentlemanly, high-toned man. As an artist, he was always aiming at an ideal, which in his younger days was seldom reached. Early in his career, he was scarcely ever able to satisfy himself with his work, and some of those who gave him commissions came to know that when their pictures had reached the point of pleasing themselves it was better to carry them away by force than leave him a chance to try to make what was perfect of their kind more perfect. Those who did not do so found, as Chalmers himself was ever ready enough to admit, that in his labour after the ideal his picture sometimes got worse instead of better. His power lay in his use of colour and his poetic feeling. He had a careful and highly finished manner.
Chalmers painted landscapes and portraits. One of his most well-known works was ‘The Legend’, a painting which he kept all his life. He was described by Mr. Charles Carter, a former director of the Aberdeen Art Gallery, as the ‘Angus Rembrandt’
Chalmers was elected Associate of the Academy in 1867, and full Academian in 1871. He died on 16 February 1878 after a violent mugging just off Charlotte Square in Edinburgh. He was taken to the Infirmary, wounded and insensible where he died. After his death, ‘The Legend’ was purchased by the Association for the Promotion of Fine Arts Scotland for 500 guineas and is now in the National Gallery.
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