The son of Erskine Nicol (see lots 50 & 341), John Watson worked with John Pettie (see lot 87) before evolving his own style. He exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1876 and 1924 and contributed many pictures inspired by literary, religious and historical themes. An unusual subject for Nicol, Cause and Effect follow in the tradition of Sir Edwin Landseer's images of children and those of Thomas Webster, particularly his work of 1841 entitled The Frown. The series was a common device in Victorian genre painting as it enabled the clear portrayal of a moral message or cautionary tale. The errant schoolboy was as a popular genre subject throughout the nineteenth century. In these pictures Nicol invokes the earlier Irish master William Mulready whose paintings of childhood such as Giving a Bite and The Butt (both Victoria and Albert Museum, London) show a similarly playful and anecdotal spirit. The theme of mischievous children is also recurrent through the Forbes Collection, for instance, John Faed's Boyhood (lot 7), John Morgan's The Fight (lot 16) and Mathias Robinson The Battle of the Bolsters (lot 247).