Robert L. Alexander was an animal painter and watercolourist. He was the father of the bird, flower and animal painter Edwin John Alexander. His daughter Jean married the landscape and portrait painter Alexander Ignatius Roche in 1906.
Alexander, who added a new pictorial direction in Scottish animal painting, was initially apprenticed to a Kilmarnock house painter who also painted landscape. From 1868 he devoted himself to painting dogs and horses. His patrons included the Duke of Portland. He made frequent visits abroad and in 1887 visited Tangier with his son, Joseph Crawhall and Pollock Nisbet. His works include Highland Society's First Prize Stallion, Disraeli (1877), The Happy Mother (1887) and Portrait of a Favourite Hunter (1898).
Alexander made his début at the Royal Academy in 1878, exhibiting there until 1888. He showed at the Royal Scottish Academy from 1868 until 1893. He also exhibited at the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colours, Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool and Dowdeswell Galleries in London. In 1878 he was elected an associate of the Royal Scottish Academy, becoming a full member in 1888. He was elected a member of the Royal Scottish Society of Painters in Water Colours in 1900, but resigned in 1901. He also exhibited on the Continent, showing a study of dogs and cats in the 1900 Paris Salon.
Alexander was among those Glasgow painters who in 1891 appended their names to a list requesting that the Corporation of Glasgow buy Arrangement in Grey and Black, No. 2: Portrait of Thomas Carlyle (YMSM 137) (#12326).
McKay, W. D. and Frank Rinder, The Royal Scottish Academy 1826-1916, Glasgow, 1917; Johnson, J. and A. Greutzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; McEwan, Peter J. M., Dictionary of Scottish Art and Architecture, Woodbridge, 1994.