D.W.C. Moonlight Nude - Painter William Etty

Friday, May 01, 2015

William Etty was born on 10 March 1787 at 20, Feasegate, York, to Matthew and Esther Etty. He was educated at Bedern in York, and at Mr Hall's Academy in Pocklington. In 1798 and in accordance with the wishes of his father, Etty served seven years of apprenticeship to a printer in Hull. He was, however, enabled to pursue his studies in painting through the generosity of his uncle, William Etty, who in 1806 invited him to London. In 1807 he entered the Royal Academy School as a probationer, studying under Henry Fuseli, and he also studied privately for a year under Sir Thomas Lawrence, whose influence for some time dominated his art. In 1808 he entered the Royal Academy as a student.   

 He copied a great deal from the old masters in the National Gallery and was a constant student in the Life School of the Academy, even after he had become an Academician. He paid a brief visit to Paris and Florence in 1816, and in 1822 he took a longer journey to Italy, spending most of his time in Venice. From his studies of the Venetian masters he acquired that excellence in colour for which his works are chiefly known.     

In 1822 Etty set off for Italy, travelling through France and Switzerland. He studied in Venice and In 1823 he was made Honorary Academician of the Venetian Academy.On his return to England in 1824, his "Pandora Crowned by the Seasons" was much applauded, and in 1828 he was made a member of the Royal Academy. Some of his early work, particularly his depiction of the female nude was regarded as controversial but Etty became an influential and respected British artist. In 1842, The Government School of Design opened in York with his help.

 "He was controversial during his lifetime in the early and middle 19th century, and still is...Etty's bumboat is what his friend John Constable called a particularly gruesome painting, Youth on the Prow, and Pleasure at the Helm, in which naked women clamber in a pyramid to catch bubbles in a golden-prowed boat."     

 Etty painted very unequally. His work at its best possesses great charm of colour, especially in the glowing, but thoroughly realistic, flesh tints. The composition is good, but his drawing is sometimes faulty, and his work usually lacks life and originality. He often endeavoured to inculcate moral lessons by his pictures. He himself considered his best works to be "The Combat," the three "Judith" pictures, "Beniah, David's Chief Captain" (all in the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, "Ulysses and the Sirens" (Manchester Gallery), and the three pictures of Joan of Arc. He is also represented in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and in English provincial museums; the Metropolitan Museum, New York City owns his "The Three Graces," considered by many his masterpiece. "The Combat" was a large painting, over 10 feet in height and 13 feet in breadth. No buyer would purchase it until Etty's fellow painter John Martin acquired it for £300. Hung in Martin's studio, it was seen there by Lord Darnley, who then commissioned Etty to paint his "The Judgement of Paris." A statue of Etty, erected in 1911, stands in front of the York Art Gallery in his home town. Yet "He remains a neglected and underrated artist, one of the few nineteenth-century painters to paint classical subjects successfully." Etty had only one English follower in the practice of painting the nude, in William Edward Frost.


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