William George Gillies was born in Haddington, near Edinburgh. He trained at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) and later studied in Paris and Italy. In 1925 he was appointed to the staff of ECA and he remained there until his retirement as Principal in 1966. Through forty uninterrupted years as a teacher, his influence on Scottish painting of the twentieth-century was profound. This work is one of a small group of portraits of members of his family, painted by Gillies in the decade before the Second World War. Although he placed himself in some of his paintings, this is the only self-portrait he is known to have painted.