Robert Louis Stevenson bust at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Robert Louis Stevenson bust at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery houses sculptures, paintings and photographs of some of Scotland’s most famous and infamous characters, including Robert Louis Stevenson.

The marble bust of the author shows him looking tired, with bags under his eyes. But with his head tilted slightly to one side and his gaze looking upwards into long distance, the sculpture is suggestive of RLS’s reputation as a dreamer and indefatigable spirit. The gaze does not rest on the viewer but on something else just over the shoulder of the beholder. In this portrait, the way to connect with Stevenson is not through interaction with his image but with whatever he seems to be dreaming about, with his imagination.

David Watson Stevenson was a successful portraitist in marble and bronze, as well as sculpting larger figure groups and public commissions. He was the son of a builder and brother of the sculptor William Grant Stevenson, with whom he collaborated as DW & G Stevenson. He served an eight year apprenticeship in the Edinburgh studio of William Brodie, from 1860-8. Stevenson finished his training in Italy before returning to Scotland to assist Sir John Steell on the Prince Albert monument in Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. He completed the groups representing Science and Learning. His most famous sculpture is the bronze statue of William Wallace, on The National Wallace Monument, near Stirling.