William Darling McKay was born in Gifford, East Lothian in 1844. He studied art in Edinburgh before travelling to Holland, where he was greatly influenced by the painters of The Hague School. Like the French Barbizon painters, The Hague painters preferred to work out of doors, concentrating on the effects of light and atmosphere on the landscape. On his return to Scotland, McKay sought out rural subjects in his native East Lothian, and his paintings have become synonymous with that area. His pastoral landscapes filled with incidents of rural life show the influence of Jean François Millet (1814-1875), particularly in McKay's images of men and women working the land.