Colliers Returning from Work, c.1780s, pasted in Allan Ramsay, The Gentle Shepherd, a Pastoral Comedy
An ex-student of the Foulis Academy of Arts, David Allan was among the first Scottish artists to embrace the burgeoning interest in customs and manners. During his formative years in Italy, his interest in descriptions of everyday life led him to record antiquities as well as traditions and games, seeking to show continuity with the remote past. Back in Scotland, Allan turned to the past and traditions of his homeland. Here, he portrays colliers, or mine workers, whose slave-like status prompted a process of emancipation starting with the 1775 Colliers and Salters Act. This eventually led to complete freedom through the 1799 Act.