Significant changes in the way family life was depicted in portraiture occurred during the 18th century in Scotland, as elsewhere. These can be summarized as a move away from formal and obviously posed constructions towards a more spontaneous seeming moment captured on canvas, and an increasing emphasis on the emotional engagement between the subjects. Correlated with this was a recognition that childhood and youth were distinct life-stages.
In relation to family as household, portraits often contained not just parents and children but other relations and servants or retainers. Furthermore, portraits could simultaneously engage with notions of family life and broader political issues of the day.
This illustrated paper by Dr Nel Whiting offers a close reading of a set of family group portraits by the Scottish artists to explore what is implied about the gendered socio-cultural expectations of elite Scottish family life in the later eighteenth century.