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SIR WILLIAM ALLAN (1782–1850)

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Originally appearing in Volume V01, Page 688 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SIR WILLIAM ALLAN (1782–1850), Scottish painter, was born at Edinburgh, and at an early age entered as a pupil in the School of Design established in Edinburgh by the Board of Trustees for Arts and Manufactures, where he had as companions, John Wilkie, John Burnet the engraver, and others who afterward distinguished themselves as artists. Here Allan and Wilkie were placed at the same table, studied the same designs, and contracted a lifelong friendship. Allan continued his studies for some time in London; but his attempt to establish himself there was unsuccessful, and after exhibiting at the Royal Academy (1805) his first picture, " A Gipsy Boy and Ass," an imitation in style of Opie, he determined, in spite of his scanty resources, to seek his fortune abroad. He accordingly set out the same year for Russia, but was carried by stress•of weather to Memel, where he remained for some time, supporting himself by his pencil. At last, however, he reached St Petersburg, where the kindness of Sir Alexander Crichton, the court physician, and other friends procured him abundant employment. By excursions into southern Russia, Turkey, the Crimea and Circassia, he filled his portfolio with vivid sketches, of which he made admirable use in his subsequent pictures. In 1814 he returned to Edinburgh, and in the two following years exhibited at the Royal Academy " The Circassian Captives " and " Bashkirs conducting Convicts to Siberia." The former picture remained so long unsold, that, thoroughly disheartened, he threatened to retire to Circassia when, through the kindness of Sir Walter Scott, a subscription of l000 guineas was obtained for the picture, which fell by lot into the possession of the earl of Wemyss. About the same time the Grand Duke Nicholas, afterwards tsar of Russia, visited Edinburgh, and purchased his "Siberian Exiles" and "Haslan Gheray crossing the River Kuban," giving a very favourable turn to the fortunes of the painter, whose pictures were now sought for by collectors. From this time to 1834 he achieved his greatest success and firmly established his fame by the illustration of Scottish history. His most important works of this class were " Archbishop Sharpe on Magus Moor "; " John Knox admonishing Mary Queen of Scots " (1823), engraved by Burnet; " Mary Queen of Scots signing her Abdication " (1824); and " Regent Murray shot by Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh." The last procured his election as an associate of the Royal Academy (1825). Later Scottish subjects were " Lord Byron " (1831), portraits of Scott and " The Orphan " (1834), which represented Anne Scott seated near the chair of her deceased father. In 183o he was compelled, on account of an attack of ophthalmia, to seek a milder climate, and visited Rome, Naples and Constantinople. He returned with a rich store of materials, of which he made excellent use in his " Constantinople Slave Market " and other productions. In 1834 he visited Spain and Morocco, and in 1841 went again to St Petersburg, when he undertook, at the request of the tsar, his " Peter the Great teaching his Subjects the Art of Ship-building," exhibited in London in 1845, and now in the Winter Palace of St Petersburg. His " Polish Exiles " and " Moorish Love-letter," &c., had secured his election as a Royal Academician in 1835; he was appointed president of the Royal Scottish Academy (1838), and royal limner for Scotland, after Wilkie's death (1841); and in 1842 received the honour of knighthood. His later years were occupied with battle-pieces, the last he finished being the second of his two companion pictures of the " Battle of Waterloo." He died on the 22nd of February 1850, leaving a large unfinished picture—" Bruce at Bannockburn." ALLAN-DESPREAUX, LOUISE ROSALIE (18ro-1856), French actress, was " discovered " by Talma at Brussels in 1820, when she played Joas with him in Athalie. At his suggestion she changed her surname, Ross, for her mother's maiden name, and, as Mlle. Despreaux, was engaged for children's parts at the Comedie Frangaise. At the same time she studied at the Conservatoire. By 1825 she had taken the second prize for comedy, and was engaged to play ingenue parts at the Comedie Frangaise, where her first appearance in this capacity was as Jenny in L'Argent on the 8th of December 1826. In 1831 the director of the Gymnase succeeded in persuading her to join his company. Her six years at this theatre, during which she married Allan, an actor in the company, were a succession of triumphs. She was then engaged at the French theatre at St Petersburg. Re-turning to Paris, she brought with her, as Legouve says, a thing she had unearthed, through a Russian translation, a little comedy never acted till she took it up, a production half-forgotten, and esteemed by those who knew it as a pleasing piece of work in the Marivaux style—Un Caprice by Alfred de Musset, which she had played with success in St Petersburg. Her selection of this piece for her reappearance at the Theatre Frangaise (1847) laid the corner-stone of Musset's lasting fame as a dramatist. In the following year his comedy Il ne fact jurer de rien was acted at the same theatre, and thus led to the production of his finer plays. Among plays by other authors in which Mme. Allan won special laurels at the Theatre Frangaise, were Par droit de conquete, Peril en la demeure, La joie fait peur, and Lady Tartuffe. In the last, with a part of only fifty lines, and playing by the very side of the great Rachel, she yet held her own as an actress of the first rank. Mme. Allan died in Paris, in the height of her popularity, in March 1856. NH-CH-NH-CO-NH2
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