Wilkie exhibited this intimate portrait in 1813, when his reputation as a painter of character was already well-established. As a Scottish artist, Wilkie was keen to elevate the status of his national school. Here, however, he seems to draw on stereotypes, showing his character with a red nose and cheeks, auburn hair and thick eyebrows. These elements evoke the wildness associated with the Scots by many 19th-century English viewers. While Wilkie’s picture may appear to be taken from life, it also answered a demand for romanticised images of Scotland.
Gallery label, March 2011