Sir George Harvey was a pupil of Sir William Allan (see lots 15 and 16) at the Trustees Academy in Edinburgh. Despite his youth, he was credited with being one of the early founders of the Royal Scottish Academy and was made an associate member in 1826 and a full member in 1829 (aged 23). He also exhibited in London at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and Scottish Academy and was knighted in 1867. The Art Journal wrote of his election 'the selection made can leave no doubt as to the wisdom of the choice; both as an artist and as a gentleman, Mr. Harvey is well qualified to be placed at the head of so distinguished a body as the Royal Scottish Academy.'
J. L. Caw (Scottish Painting Past and Present, 1670-1908, 1908, p. 113.) considered works such as Catechising in a Scottish School as 'dealing with everyday life of the people, or in those incidents of school-life and child-play which he loved to paint, he has left work of true historical value. They embody the feelings of a contemporary with the veracity of an eye-witness'.
Catechising in a Scottish School shows the tradition of Catechising, or the teaching of the principles of Christian religion by means of question and answer, where four school children are being question by their local church minister before their teacher, fellow pupils and parents. His depiction of children was considered by Caw to be different from his contemporaries, 'his pictures of childhood represent the appearance of a fresh feeling for children at once deeper and more tender than the old...it was spontaneous, sympathetic, naïve, and may be said to have prepared the way for M'Taggart and Cameron.
The present work is a preparitary oil sketch for the picture in Leicester City Art Gallery.