WILKIE, Sir David
(b. 1785, Cults, Fife, d. 1841, off Malta)

Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch

Oil on canvas, 97 x 158 cm
Wellington Museum, Apsley House, London

In London's Royal Academy in 1822, so enthusiastic was the crowd that pressed around Wilkie's Chelsea Pensioners Reading the Waterloo Dispatch that rails had to be put up to protect it. The painting celebrated the end of the Napoleonic Wars. Wilkie had his order for the painting from the Duke of Wellington, the victor of Waterloo. Wilkie, who was merely asked by the duke for a picture of old soldiers outside a public house, raised his game to produce his masterpiece, a work that at once celebrated his patron's victory and brought this decisive contemporary event within the realm of familiar experience by depicting the impact of its announcement on a crowd in a London street.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.