Katharine Read

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Katharine Read

18th Century

Helena BeatsonChances are you may have heard of Joshua Reynolds and Gainsborough – but not of Katharine Read. Yet she was just as well-known in her time – and just as well-paid as those famous artists.

Katharine was born in Logie into a comfortably-off family, the fifth child of Elizabeth Wedderburn and Alexander Read. The family were Jacobite supporters and moved from Dundee after the rebellion of 1745.

Although we don’t know who taught her initially, Katharine painted in pastels. In France, she studied under a pastellist, Marcel Quentin de la Tour and also studied in Italy for three years. Back in London in 1754, she set up her own studio and became sought-after as a portrait painter – she was appointed ‘Painter to the Queen’ and later lived and painted portraits in India.

Until recently, Katharine was largely forgotten in Dundee but there are plans to acquire some of her work for the city at McManus Galleries.

(Left) Painting of society intellectual Elizabeth Carter, by Katharine Read. Commissioned by Elizabeth Montague. Reproduced by Courtesy of the Dr Johnson’s House of Trustees.

(Top right) The artist’s niece Helena Beatson. Reproduced by
Courtesy of the owner Mr Nicholas Ennos.