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Macbeth was a painter and illustrator of pastoral landscapes and rustic genre scenes in the tradition begun by Geoffrey Heming Mason and Fred Walker. He was also a distinguished print maker who produced fine reproductions and etchings, as well as original work.

Macbeth was born in Edinburgh, son of a portrait painter, but read his art education in London where he began his career as an illustrator for the Graphic. He began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1873 and regularly showed work in all the major London exhibitions including the Old and New Watercolour Societies, the Grosvenor, New and Dudley Galleries, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters, The Royal Society Portrait painters, and the Royal Society Portrait etchers. In the Royal Academy he regularly showed etchings after Walker, Mason and Pinwell. He produced one etching after Burne-Jones (the Chant D’Amour), but Burne-Jones felt that Macbeths style was to strong for his work and better suited to rustic subjects. Macbeth's most ambitious paintings date from the 1870's and 80's and are large panoramic canvases of rural labour

They are less idyllic than those of Macbeth’s mentors and in depicting the harsh side of rural life they aim at social realism. His later paintings, such as The Cast Shoe bought for the Chantery Bequeath in 1890, make no such social commentary. Macbeth was a member of many artistic societies, including the RWS (Assoc 1871, member 1901), the Royal Society of Painter Etchers (1880), the Royal Institute 1882 and the Royal OI, 1883. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1883 and a member in 1903. There is no modern study of the artist.

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