David Wilkie, The Letter of Introduction, 1813
Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841) was a successful Scottish painter. He worked in multiple genres, especially genre scenes and portraits. He was prominent enough to be commissioned to paint King George IV, King William IV, and Queen Victoria. The Letter of Introduction is based Wilkie's own experience of arriving in London with letters for potential patrons who had no interest in him. The young man is dressed formally and stands awkwardly, while the old man is in his dressing gown and looks askance at his visitor, clearly disdainful. The dog sniffs the newcomer curiously. Wilkie's skill is evident in communicating the tension of the scene. Every element is beautifully rendered, such as the textured walls and fine chair. The detailed depiction of the bookshelves and Japanese vase are also fascinating. Each element of the painting is carefully chosen to effectively convey the tension and discomfort that Wilkie felt in his youth, creating a powerful and beautiful painting.