Govan stands on the south bank of the Clyde, at the Clyde's confluence with the River Kelvin and was the site for an important river crossing. Rowboat ferries operated there but were limited by size (they were too small to carrry horses and carts) and were occasionally overturned by the wash of passing boats. By 1784 the first chain-hauled ferry was introduced at Govan, between Water Row and Pointhouse. By the mid-19th Century the Govan Ferry could carry two carriages or carts as well as their horses and passengers. In 1857 the Clyde Navigation Trust took over the operation of the Govan Ferry and eight years later introduced one of the river's first steam ferries there.
Little is known of the career of John Knox. He came from the west of Scotland and his family moved from Paisley to Glasgow just before 1800. He is primarily known for his landscapes and may have been a pupil of Alexander Nasmyth.