National Records of Scotland

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Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841)

Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841)

Painter of genre historical subjects and portraits

David Wilkie studied at the Trustees' Academy, forerunner of the Edinburgh College of Art. His early paintings such as 'Pitlessie Fair' and 'The Penny Wedding' were of rural scenes in the Dutch style. Later he left for London, where he established his reputation and was elected to the Royal Academy in 1811. In 1815 and 1816 he visited the continent. On his return, the duke of Wellington commissioned a painting, 'Chelsea Pensioners awaiting news of the Battle of Waterloo'. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1820 and attracted such attention that barriers had to be placed around it. Another notable painting of this period was a portrait of Sir Walter Scott with his family at Abbotsford, after a visit there in 1818. He was created Royal Limner (portrait painter) for Scotland in 1822, in succession to Sir Henry Raeburn, and painter in ordinary to the king in 1830, in succession to Sir Thomas Lawrence. He was knighted in 1836. In 1840 he travelled to the Middle East, where he visited Constantinople, Smyrna, Jerusalem and Alexandria. During the return voyage he died and was buried at sea off Gibraltar.

Birth in 1785

David Wilkie was born on 18 November 1785, the son of the Reverend Mr David Wilkie and Isobel Litester. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Cults in Fife shows that he was baptised on 4 December and that his father was the local parish minister.

Baptism entry for David Wilkie

Baptism entry for David Wilkie in the OPR for Cults (26 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 419/1

Testament of Sir David Wilkie

(National Records of Scotland, SC70/1/61 pp 454-462)

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NRS public talk

A past NRS public talk given by Dr Viccy Coltman on the subject of George IV's visit to Edinburgh in 1822 can be viewed on the NRS YouTube channel