Known as "The Scottish Hogarth", David Allan was arguably the first of the Scottish genre painters, his watercolours of such scenes as The Penny Wedding influencing future exponents Carse, Geikie and Wilkie. Allan was born at Alloa, Clackmannanshire, and studied at the then new Foulis Academy, Glasgow.
With the support of Lord Cathcart he left for Rome in the late 1760s and spent the next ten years there, studying under Gavin Hamilton, life- and character-sketching and painting historical scenes. Back in Scotland by 1779, his best-known work of this later period were his illustrations for Ramsay's The Gentle Shepherd and Burns' Scottish Songs. David Allan was Master of the Trustees' Academy from 1785 until his death in August 1796.