About this artwork

Known as ‘The Minstrel of the Scottish Border’, this full-length portrait shows Sir Walter Scott against a background of moorland, with two lively terriers at his feet. The landscape is that of the area surrounding his beloved Abbotsford home in the Scottish Borders, on the banks of the river Tweed. The peculiar pose and characteristic clothing appear in several other works by Allan, one of which is a quick sketch painted during a visit to Abbotsford in September 1831. The present portrait was painted some ten years after Scott’s death, and exhibited first in 1846. Throughout the nineteenth century, Walter Scott’s fame and influence were immense, with fellow authors in Europe and beyond classing him with Shakespeare, Cervantes and Chaucer as one of the great universal writers.

Sir William Allan

Sir William Allan

Born in Edinburgh, Allan was apprenticed to a coach painter before studying at the Trustees' Academy in the city from 1799; David Wilkie was a fellow student and became a lifelong friend. Allan went to London in 1803 to continue his studies, possibly at the Royal Academy. In 1805 he went to Russia, where he was based until 1814, travelling widely in the region. On his return, he settled in Edinburgh where he painted scenes inspired by his travels as well as subjects from Scottish history and Sir Walter Scott's novels. He was appointed Master of the Trustees' Academy in 1826, elected President of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1838 and became the Queen's Limner for Scotland in 1841, the year he was knighted.