Sir David Wilkie began his studies at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh, and after early success he moved on to the Royal Academy Schools in London. He was named an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1807 and was elected to full membership in 1811. He was immensely popular, and had many important and influential patrons for his elaborate history paintings, genre subjects, and portraits. However, Wilkie's health was fragile, and on the return from a trip to the Holy Land in 1841 he suddenly became ill and died. He was buried at sea off the coast of Gibraltar.
In the mid-1830s, Wilkie was more involved with portraiture than genre and history subjects. This large and highly finished portrait of the Hamilton Children typifies his watercolor technique of this period.