Sir David Wilkie, Nude Woman on a Ladder, a black and red chalk drawing with watercolour

England, AD 1840

Wilkie (1785-1841) began his artistic training in 1799 at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh under the instruction of the history painter John Graham (1754-1817). While continuing his studies at the Royal Academy in London he began to exhibit. Influenced by Dutch seventeenth century genre painting, Wilkie developed a talent for depicting scenes from everyday life. The culmination of his success came with the huge popularity of the Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Gazette of the Battle of Waterloo (1818-22, Apsley House, London) commissioned by the Duke of Wellington.

The deaths of his mother and two brothers in 1824 resulted in a nervous breakdown, after which Wilkie travelled extensively in Italy and Spain. In 1830 he was appointed Painter in Ordinary to George IV, a post he retained under William IV (by whom he was knighted) and Queen Victoria.

This is one of the very few nude studies that Wilkie made. It seems to be an independent composition, quite separate from the prolific preparatory sketches that he made for his oil paintings. The drawing is dated 18 July 1840; he died the next year returning from a tour of the Holy Land.

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More information


J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

H.A.D. Miles and D. Blaney Brown, Sir David Wilkie of Scotland ( (Raleigh, North Carolina Museum of Art, 1987)

L. Errington, Tribute to Wilkie (Edinburgh, National Gallery of Scotland, 1985)


Height: 331.000 mm
Width: 227.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1885-7-11-302



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