Voyager Press Rare Books & Manuscripts

1909 - Rare Photograph - Famous Painter

William Powell Frith

Famous English Painter

1909 - Rare Photograph - Famous Painter

William Powell Frith 1909


[Blythburgh?], 23 June 1909. One rare and personal photograph of famous English painter William Powell Frith (1819-1909), taken less than five months before his death. Mounted in a period round wooden frame, with outside diameter measuring 24 cm. Image showing behind glass measures 14,5 cm in diameter. Inscribed in manuscript to verso wooden mount.

This photograph is one of the last photographs taken of artist William Powell Frith. He has been described as the "greatest British painter of the social scene since Hogarth". Seated with Miss Marie Ellen Seymour Lucas (1879-1951) on her wedding day (on this day becoming Mrs. Laurence Grubbe), Mr. Frith and the bride's father John Seymour Lucas, R.A. (1849-1923) were dear friends, and connected professionally through the Royal Academy of Arts. Frith was also closely acquainted with the groom and Lucas' son-in-law, Laurence Carrington Grubbe (1854-1912), he too, an artist and member of the Royal Academy of Arts. [The National Portrait Gallery holds this same image.]

From Wikipedia:

William Powell Frith (1819-1909) specialised in genre subjects and panoramic narrative works of life in the Victorian era. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1853, presenting The Sleeping Model as his Diploma work.

Born in Aldfield, North Yorkshire, Frith was encouraged to take up art by his father, a hotelier in Harrogate. He moved to London in 1835 where he began his formal art studies at Sass’s Academy in Charlotte Street, before attending the Royal Academy Schools. Frith started his career as a portrait painter and first exhibited at the British Institution in 1838. In the 1840s, he often based works on the literary output of writers such as Charles Dickens, whose portrait he painted, and Laurence Sterne.

He was a member of The Clique, which also included Richard Dadd. The principal influence on his work was the hugely popular domestic subjects painted by Sir David Wilkie. Wilkie's famous painting The Chelsea Pensioners was a spur to the creation of Frith's own most famous compositions. Following the precedent of Wilkie, but also imitating the work of his friend Dickens, Frith created complex multi-figure compositions depicting the full range of the Victorian class system, meeting and interacting in public places. In Ramsgate Sands, Life at the Seaside (1854) he depicted visitors and entertainers at the seaside resort. He followed this with The Derby Day, depicting scenes among the crowd at the race at Epsom Downs, which was based on photographic studies by Robert Howlett. This 1858 composition was bought by Jacob Bell for £1,500. It was so popular that it had to be protected by a specially installed rail when shown at the Royal Academy of Arts. Another well-known painting was The Railway Station, a scene of Paddington Station. In 1865, he was chosen to paint the Marriage of the Prince of Wales.

Current Condition

Split in wood frame, otherwise in Very Good Condition.