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David Wilkie

The People's Painter

Nicholas Tromans

Hardback i (Printed to Order)
eBook (PDF) i

This is the first modern book about the artist David Wilkie (1785-1841), the first British painter to become an international celebrity. Based on extensive original research, the book explores the ways in which Wilkie’s images, so beloved by his contemporaries, engaged with a range of cultural predicaments close to their hearts. In a series of thematic chapters, whose concerns range far beyond the details of Wilkie’s own career, Tromans shows how, through Wilkie’s thrillingly original work, British society was able to reimagine its own everyday life, its history, and its multinational (Anglo-Scottish) nature.

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1. Everyday Stories
2. The Anatomy of Expression
3. 'the shackles of connoisseurship'
4. Everyday Heroes: Wilkie's Version of History
5. Wilkie and Scotland

About the Author

Nicholas Tromans is a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at Kingston University.


Tromans has looked long at and thought hard about Wilkie. The impressive result is a book which bursts at the binding with new ideas and insights.
- Richard Green, Burlington Magazine
The book succeeds in offering a comprehensive and rigorous examination that explores many works that have either not been published or recently exhibited. As such it is the most complete picture yet available of an artist who dazzled and intrigued yet, ultimately, frustrated his public.
- Robin Nicholson, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, College Art Association Reviews
An enjoyable and stimulating book... A nice balance of text and illustration (monochrome and colour), factors that add to the pleasure of reading.
- Pamela Gerrish Nunn, The Art Book
A most intelligent and persuasive account of the artist. As the author states, it is a biographical study which aspires to be a social study of the artist’s career. It achieves both aims admirably. The prose is clear, at times amusing, and the book is extremely well written, a good read – a rare thing these days among academic texts. The biography is intriguing and the monographic aspect of the book brought most of Wilkie’s works together for the first time. A major achievement for which both the author and publisher deserve congratulations and gratitude.
- The Adjudicators of the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History
An essential read for anyone with pretensions to understanding painting in Europe during the early decades of the nineteenth century... the book’s interdisciplinary approach merits the attention of any serious student of British cultural history.
- Matthew Clarke