David Allan, Two Men on a Seat, a pencil and black chalk drawing

Scotland, about AD 1780-96

Two men seated at a bench, one reading The Edinburgh Advertiser

As a boy, Allan (1744-1796) was expelled from school for caricaturing his master. This led to an early apprenticeship to Robert Foulis, a Glasgow printer. In the 1760s Allan went to study in Italy under the patronage of Lord Cathcart. He was encouraged in history painting by Gavin Hamilton, the leading Scottish artist in Rome. During his stay in Naples, Allan painted his other great patron, Cathcart's brother-in-law, Sir William Hamilton, and later presented the portrait to the British Museum. In London in 1777 he took up the more lucrative business of portrait painting. A few years later Allan settled in Edinburgh as master of the Trustees' Academy. In his later years he developed his natural talent for depicting the life of ordinary people.

Genre scenes such as this provide a useful visual documentation of eighteenth-century social history. Particularly interesting is the long plaid of the figure reading The Edinburgh Advertiser, an item of clothing seldom seen today. On the reverse of the drawing is a humble domestic sketch of a family gathered around a cooking pot.

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More information


D. Macmillan, Painting in Scotland: the gold (London, Tate Gallery, 1986)

I. Jenkins and K. Sloan, Vases and Volcanoes: Sir Willi (London, The British Museum Press, 1996)


Height: 225.000 mm
Width: 303.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1972-U-522



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