About this artwork

This beautiful watercolour of a Highland dance is full of joy and vitality. Allan was especially attracted to the image of dancing figures, and throughout his career he produced many drawings of peasants dancing. The graceful pose of the female figure to the right of the central group suggests that Allan was influenced by the classical figures that he encountered during the ten years that he lived in Rome. His natural ability for making rapid sketches of figures and costumes meant that he was often in demand as an illustrator of local festivals and events.

  • title: A Highland Dance
  • accession number: D 5185
  • artist: David AllanScottish (1744 - 1796)
  • gallery: In Storage
  • object type: Work on paper
  • subject: Sport and leisure Performing Arts
  • materials: Brush and watercolour over pencil on paper
  • date created: About 1780
  • measurements: 29.40 x 80.40 cm (framed: 51.90 x 101.50 x 2.30 cm)
  • credit line: Purchased by the Patrons of the National Galleries of Scotland 1990
  • photographer: Antonia Reeve

David Allan

David Allan

Allan was born in Alloa, on the Firth of Forth, and attended the Foulis Academy in Glasgow for seven years. In 1767 he moved to Rome, where he lived for ten years; this was the most successful period of his life. In Rome Allan painted ambitious historical pictures, portraits, caricatures and genre scenes. On returning to London in 1777, he spent two years trying to establish himself. Unsuccessful and ill, he returned to Scotland where he specialised in painting family groups. He also produced book illustrations and was appointed master of the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh.