THE artist David Allan was born in Alloa on February 13, 1744.

His father, also David, was a clerk in one of Thomas Erskine's (the Earl of Mar) collieries and later Shore Master of the town's harbour.

His mother, Janet Gullen, died shortly after giving birth to the premature David. His father remarried when he was 10 months old.

As his father worked for Erskine, young David came to the attention of Lady Charlotte Erskine and it was through her influence he became interested in art.

Life at the harbour was exiting for a young boy, ships brought timber from the Baltic states, iron from Scandanavia and wines and spirits from the Mediterranean, Allan found school boring and the schoolmaster John Lamb did little to encourage him.

It was during this time he discovered his talent for art and began drawing caricatures of the teacher. For his efforts Allan was expelled from the school.

His education continued, however, as Lord and Lady Cathcart of Schawpark were patrons of the newly formed Foulis Academy of Art in Glasgow, and had heard of his talent.

They therefore offered to fund his education at the Academy. His studies began in February 1755 and was apprenticed for seven years.

Now aged 18, Allan lacked the money to go to St Luke's in Rome where most gifted artists went to enhance their craft. Sometime between 1764 and 1767 Lady Cathcart and others raised the funds so he could attend.

He became interested in 'history painting,' that being in the style of mythological scenes from classical times.

In 1773 he won the prestigious Gold Medal which was awarded every second year with his painting 'The Parting of Hector and Andromache.'

He was also interested in ordinary folk and their lives so painted popular street scenes.

During this time, he began to travel extensively doing the Grand Tour, taking in more of Italy, and France and Sicily.

He could only afford this thanks to the patronage of Lord Cathcart's son-in-law Sir William Hamilton who was the British Envoy in Naples, and also the continuing patronage of the Cathcarts and the Erskines.

In 1777, he left Italy bound for London but the atmosphere did nothing for his health. As such, two years later he headed back to Scotland, settling in Edinburgh.

During that first winter in the city, he became ill. That notwithstanding, he was still gaining commissions and his reputation was growing.