Wilkie was the most important British painter of scenes from familiar life during the early part of the nineteenth century. In mid-1835 he visited Ireland for the first time. The picturesque nature of what he called the 'primeval simplicity' of the peasants' life gave him a wealth of 'perfectly new and untouched' material. As a result, Wilkie made a number of sketches for possible pictures. This vigorous drawing, made in a humble hut, provided him with the background for an oil painting 'The Irish Whiskey Still' which he painted in 1839. The figures and other details of the interior which Wilkie included in the finished painting were based on other Irish sketches he had made.
Gallery label, September 2004