The Irish-Scots figure painter Erskine Nicol, was born in Leith, Scotland. After a short time as a house painters apprentice, he attended the Trustees' Academy at 12 years of age, studying painting and drawing under Thomas Duncan and William Allen. A short appointment as an art teacher at a local Leith school was followed by a 4-year stint as an art master in Dublin. Nicol supplemented his teaching stipend by painting portraits. It was in Ireland that Erskine Nicol found his true style, executing figurative scenes, landscapes and genre studies of the Irish people. In addition, he was one of the few painters of his time to portray the horrors of famine, eviction and emigration in nineteenth-century Ireland.