About this artwork

This subject is based on Wilkie's own experience as a young artist arriving in London with, as he felt, useless letters of introduction to potential patrons. He captures perfectly the awkward pose of a young man uncomfortable in formal clothes being sniffed at by the dog of the unfriendly older gentleman. Although dressed informally in dressing gown, slippers and turban the older man's expression, both calculating and suspicious, does nothing to ease the tension of the moment. The conspicuous presence of a Japanese jar may suggest he is a connoisseur.

Sir David Wilkie

Sir David Wilkie

Wilkie achieved international recognition for his highly original paintings of events and episodes from contemporary life. His skills as a narrator were evident in the facial expressions and poses of his characters, and in the informative detail he included. He was born in Fife, the son of a rural minister and began his formal artistic training at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh when he was fifteen. He then moved to London in 1805 and became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1811. He was appointed Painter to the King in 1830 and knighted in 1836.