William Aikman was born in Angus, Scotland, the son of a laird of Cairnie. He graduated from the University of Edinburgh and was intended for a career in law. However, instead he became a pupil of portrait painter John Baptist de Medina, then living in Edinburgh. Aikman moved to London in 1704 and three years later travelled to Rome, Constantinople and Smyrna. He had returned to Edinburgh by 1711, where he developed a successful practice as a portrait painter. In about 1723, he again settled in London, painting portraits of Richard Boyle, Sir Robert Walpole. In 1730, Aikman painted the royal family for Lord Burlington. He died at his house in Leicester Fields the following year after a sudden deterioration in his health.
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