I first saw this painting when I was a university student up in Scotland. When killing time before catching trains south or up to Stirling, I would sometimes visit The National Gallery and this rather quirky picture impressed me though I couldn't explain why.
He's like a silhouette as he moves effortlessly over the ice. He knows how to skate but he's very nonchalant about it. There's something of a tension between the staid formality of his vocation and the freedom of travelling smoothly over a frozen lake. He appears to cast no shadow.
There's a wild and slightly brooding fluidity about the background but Reverend Walker himself is rather statuesque - frozen in that moment.
The picture stayed in Robert Walker's family for over a hundred and fifty years before it was brought to the attention of the public and art historians alike round about 1950. It is now much treasured and the image features on postcards, ceramic mugs, posters, tea towels and T-shirts. The Reverend Robert Walker and Henry Raeburn would have both been astonished.
Duddingston Loch is a small fresh water lake in Edinburgh, close to Holyrood Park. I think the background suggests somewhere more remote than that.