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The Abbotsford family

Reference URL

The Abbotsford family 1817

Not on display

  • Scottish Art
Wilkie visited Sir Walter Scott and his family at their country home of Abbotsford in 1817. Scott is seated as though he is about to relate a story to the gathering of family and friends. Wilkie commented on the 'good humour and merriment' of everyone in the party. He exercised artistic licence, depicting Scott's daughters as bare footed country milkmaids, but also included a realistic portrayal of Scott's highland dog, a present from the Laird of Glengary. The landscape background recalls the Tweed Valley, with a distant view of Melrose. Painted on panel the picture has the character of an oil sketch.

Glossary Open

Artistic licence

The freedom of artists to detour from representational ‘truth’ for artistic reasons.

Oil sketch

A rough drawing in oil paint, possibly the preliminary version of a painting. In the in the 18th and 19th centuries it is particularly associated with landscape sketches which were executed quickly outdoors and not intended for public display.


A flat, rigid surface usually made from wood or metal, on which a painting is made. Prior to the introduction of canvas, most paintings in Europe were executed on wood.

Artistic licence, Oil sketch, Panel


  • Acc. No. PG 1303
  • Medium Oil on panel
  • Size 28.00 x 37.60 cm
  • Credit Purchased 1895 and transferred from the National Gallery of Scotland 1936