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David Wilkie was born in Scotland into a poor family, but became one of the great artistic success-stories of the early nineteenth century. He achieved virtually overnight success in London in the 1800s with sentimental, narrative paintings of rural life in his homeland.

By the time Phillips painted this portrait, Wilkie had spent several years touring Europe, and had turned to literary and historical subjects of a more conventional character. The abstracted, gloomy setting, and the painter’s glancing expression suggest an inspired, poetic personality.

September 2004