William Collins, the charming interpreter of English rural and seaside life, was born in London of Irish parents on the 18th of September, 1787. He learned the first principles of art in the studio of George Morland—one of the earliest English painters who chose his subjects from the home life of the lower classes of his native land—whose influence is very distinctly noticeable in the works of his pupil.
In 1807, young Collins entered the Royal Academy schools, and later that year exhibited two fine landscapes; but compelled to earn his living by portrait painting, he did not follow them up with anything of a similar character until 1810, when, having saved money, he was able to choose his own subjects. He then produced a series of scenes of outdoor life, sch as Children Bird's-Nesting, or Swinging on the Gate, (see Steel Engraving), Prawn Fisheries, Shrimpers, Fishermen on the look-out, treated in a simple, life-like and effective manner which elicited high praise from the art critics of the day. (Sandhurst, p. 179)