The “Multiple Perspectives” Art of David Wilkie

Sir David Wilkie (18 November 1785 – 1 June 1841) was a Scottish artist of genre paintings, who also painted historical events and portraits, and was sometimes known as the “people’s painter”, presumably for some of his paintings that depict the lower-class or the middle class fallen on hard times. He was the godfather of author Wilkie Collins (The Woman in White). Wilkie’s paintings are characterised by liveliness, detail, and different or multiple perspectives shown by a number of characters in one painting. Below are four of his paintings, though his best-known one is probably The Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch [1816].

The Blind Fiddler [1806]

In this painting, where Wilkie pays close attention to details, a blind fiddler and his family (a wife, presumably, a lace-maker, an older boy and a baby) come to a country family home to provide entertainment. There is a lot going on in this painting, with each character having a different reaction to the music. The two small children of the family, presumably small trader’s family, seem to be interested in the music, while the baby is being entertained by the older man, probably his father. The small trader family’s son imitates the fiddler by playing on the bellows. Wilkie undoubtedly wanted to contrast the small trader with the poor fiddler, hence our attention is drawn to the colour red of the fiddler’s hat and the houseowner’s waistcoat.

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