The son of a Perth baillie, Alison began his artistic career as a pupil of Sir Henry Raeburn. However, little is further known about his life and career. A painting of Sir James Dunsmore, 75th Regt, from about 1804, is signed with the monogram ‘DA’ and is attributed to Alison. It now hangs in the Gordon Highlanders Museum in Aberdeen. The portrait of Edinburgh surgeon Alexander Wood is the only painting by Alison in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery Collection.