Raeburn was born in the suburbs of Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1756. He was indentured to a goldsmith as a boy, and eventually learned enough about art by copying to paint miniatures for his employer. He painted his first full-length portrait at the age of 20, and before long gained a reputation for his portraiture. Almost a decade later, he went to London to study with Sir Joshua Reynolds, the founder of the Royal Academy and a famous portraitist himself. Reynolds urged Raeburn to visit Italy, to expand his artistic vocabulary, but after eighteen months abroad, Raeburn returned to the Edinburgh area, where he stayed for the rest of his life. He famously painted directly onto the canvas with no preliminary sketching, but he was known to utilize the camera obscura in his painting, a technique which essentially projects an image onto a canvas or page, where it can be traced and colored. He became the foremost portrait painter in Scotland in his era; he was knighted by King George IV in 1822, and died the next year.