MacNee, a celebrated portrait painter, was born at Fintry, Stirlingshire, on 4 June 1806, but moved with his mother to Glasgow on the death of his father when he was only 6 months old. He received his early education at the school of Mr Marshall leaving at the age of 13 to be apprenticed to the landscape painter John Knox where he remained for the next four years. After working as a lithographic draughtsman for a year he joined a fellow pupil, Horatio MacCulloch, in Cumnock, Ayrshire where they painted the plane-wood snuff boxes for which the town was famous. In their hey-day these boxes were sold to passing coach travellers.
The following year the two friends went to Edinburgh where they were employed by the engraver William Home Lizars in drawing and colouring plates for works on anatomy and natural history.
In his leisure time MacNee continued to practise drawing and painting and soon his pictures were being shown in exhibitions. At first he painted landscapes and genre but eventually concentrated on portraits.
In 1832 he went to England and while resident in Kent painted several portraits. His rendering of Lord Hardinge was his first to be exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. On his return to Scotland he settled in Glasgow where for almost forty years he continued to paint and was a constant exhibitor of portraits at the Royal Scottish Academy. His most successful portrait, was that of Dr. Wardlow, now in Elgin Place Church, Glasgow, which was awarded a gold medal at the Paris International Exhibition of 1855. In 1876 on his election as President of the Royal Scottish Academy he moved to Edinburgh and was knighted the following year.
Among other honours conferred on him were that of LL.D from the University of Glasgow and the appointment of the position of a deputy-lieutenant of the city of Edinburgh.
More than seventy of his portraits including one of his daughter Isabella, Lady in Grey, hang in the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.
In his personal life he married twice. All but two of the issue of the first marriage, to Margaret McGill, a son Daniel and daughter Isabella pre-deceased him. His second marriage to Mary Buchanan took place 17 November 1859, the year in which he visited Stratford-on-Avon.
He died 17 January 1882 at 6 Learmonth Terrace, Edinburgh and was interred at the Dean cemetery. He was survived by his widow, who died in 1931, one son Thomas Wiseman and two daughters Constance and Mary Buchanan Lochhead.
His great grandson Patrick MacNee (1922-2015)
was well known to television audiences in the 1960s in the role of John Steed
in the Avenger series.
Scotland, Select Births & Baptisms 1564 – 1950
Scotland, Select Marriages 1561 – 1910
Moray, Scotland, Local Heritage Index
England & Wales National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills ) 1858-1966
Avictorian.com, Victorian Art History
Memoirs and portraits of 100 Glasgow men 62. Daniel MacNee
Wikisource – free online library
Find a Grave Index.