In 1855 John Pettie enrolled at the Trustees’ Academy, where he studied for five years under the influential artist and teacher Robert Scott Lauder. An ambitious and hard-working student, Pettie first exhibited at the Royal Scottish Academy in 1858, and throughout the 1860s he regularly contributed illustrations to periodicals as a source of income. He moved to London in 1862 and soon established himself as the leader of a group of expatriate Scottish painters, whose work shares certain characteristics such as clarity of narrative and a bold visual style. A successful exhibitor at the Royal Academy, Pettie was strongly influenced by David Wilkie’s work, and his paintings often depict historical subject matter. In 1865 he married Elizabeth Ann Bossom with whom he had four children.