George Simson was born in Dundee and worked as a printer before he became an artist. He studied at the Trustees' Academy from 1828 to 29, whilst he was already teaching at the Edinburgh Drawing Institution. He was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1829. In 1831 set up a drawing academy with his brother, David. The classes were given from the artist's Edinburgh home; men and women were taught separately and Mrs Simson was 'always present during the ladies' hours of instruction'. His own work includes fancy pictures, landscapes and portraits, the latter often 'cabinet portraits' - small scale works showing the sitter at full length.