About this artwork

This sketch was made in preparation for the painting The Irish Whiskey Still (1840). This sketch and painting were produced after Wilkie's visit to Ireland in 1835. He compared Ireland to Spain as a picturesque, wild and romantic place, and described the 'primeval simplicity of the peasants'. He also said that Ireland provided him with 'perfectly new and untouched' material for inspiration. This sketch shows a young boy pouring the distilled spirit into a barrel using a funnel. In the final painting Wilkie changed the child into a girl, wearing a scarlet red skirt. 

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.