Some of Wilkie’s most popular pictures showed life and folk traditions in rural Scotland, familiar from his boyhood. Later, in 1835, he visited Ireland, which he compared to Spain for its picturesque potential. He exhibited this picture the following year. It evokes the ‘state of primeval simplicity’ he found in Galway and Connemara, while underplaying the political and religious unrest implied by the title.Peep-o’Day Boys were Protestant guerrillas. They raided Catholic rebels at dawn, during uprisings in the 1780s and 90s. Wilkie had first planned a more contentious subject: a Whiteboy, from another group who championed oppressed tenants.
Gallery label, May 2007