Dorothy Dunnett


Dorothy was an accomplished painter and was exhibited in the Royal Scottish Academy. Her artist's eye is clearly evident in her writing in the rich and evocative descriptions and ability to capture the smallest detail.

The majority of her best works were produced as commisions for private clients or for public spaces such as the large portrait of the Scottish actor Duncan McRae which hung in the Citizen's Theatre in Glasgow for many years. The exceptions were of course the portraits of her family and the following one of Archie Abernethy.


She only ever produced one painting of one of her fictional characters, when a Canadian reader commisioned her to paint a character of her choice. She chose Archie Abernethy and was about to send the painting off when the reader sadly died and his wife wrote to cancel the commision. The painting remained in Dorothy's house, displayed on the staircase next to her portraits of Alastair and the rest of her family, until her death.

Other known Portraits

I asked Dorothy about her other paintings in May 2000 and she supplied the following information.

The portrait of Duncan McRae mentioned above was last known as on permanent display in The People's Palace in Glasgow but Dorothy believed it was then probably in storage there.

Two portraits are on display in the House of the Binns in West Lothian - the home of Tam and Kathleen Dalyell and which is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. They are of Kathleen's parents Lord and Lady Wheatley. The former was used on the book jacket of Lord Wheatley's memoirs which was published by Butterworth.

In Canada there is a portrait of Lord Thomson of Fleet as Chancellor of New Brunswick University. There used to be one of his son in the Scotsman Building but she believed it was sent to Canada when the Scotsman changed ownership and moved to their new premises. All the others she believed were in private ownership.

I know of one further portrait - her final one - which was of and for her friend, Rev. Charles Robertson, who recently retired after many years as Minister of the Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh and Chaplain to the Queen.

Miscellaneous Paintings

The following are a selection of paintings that were in the house and auctioned when it was cleared. Whether they were practice pieces or personal projects is not known.




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