Edinburgh-born William Quiller Orchardson entered the Trustees’ Academy in 1845, aged thirteen. He was immediately noted for his talent and his independence, as he allegedly refused to adhere to the custom of drawing classical statues and instead preferred to work from real-life models. He stayed on as a mature student until 1855 – the year the painter of this sketch-like portrait, his friend John Pettie, joined the Academy. In 1862, Orchardson, Pettie and Tom Graham moved to London, where they shared a home. Soon, Orchardson became a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy and his reputation was quickly established. A kind and sociable man, he became famous for his cleverly observed genre scenes of high society, often characterised by their subtle storytelling and psychological realism.