Sir Edward John Poynter, Bt., PRA, RWS (British 1836-1919)
Provenance: Private collection, UK, since circa 1960.
Exhibited: Royal Academy, 1863, no. 38
The present lot, by one of the last great Classical painters of the Victorian era, was only the artist's fourth Royal Academy exhibit, presented two years before his first great success, 'Faithful unto Death' (RA 1865, no.542). Born in Paris, Poynter trained at the RA Schools, where he was a close friend of Simeon Solomon, before returning to Paris to study under Charles Gleyre, a master of the Classical nude, where he met the likes of Thomas Armstrong and Whistler. Poynter's academic style was honed in Italy, where he encountered Leighton in 1853, and was persuaded to turn towards figurative painting. As much a part of the British artistic establishment as Leighton, Poynter embraced academia, working first as Slade Professor 1871-75, then as Director of the National Gallery 1894-1904; he was elected President of the Royal Academy in 1894, narrowly beating Briton Riviere to the position. As well as his fascination with Classicism, Poynter worked as an illustrator and designer of stained glass windows, frescos, mosaics and pottery.
In 1866, Poynter married Agnes Macdonald, member of a remarkable Victorian family. The father of the family was a Methodist minister whose appointment to churches in Birmingham and London in the 1850's brought his five daughters and two sons into contact with the Pre-Raphaelite circle. In 1860, Georgiana Macdonald married Burne-Jones, while in 1865 Alice married John Kipling, a minor member of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who is better known as the father of the author Rudyard Kipling. In 1866, Louisa Macdonald married a Wolverhampton industrialist, Alfred Baldwin; their son, Stanley, would become Conservative Prime Minister in 1923. The sisters were encouraged in their artistic endeavours by Rebecca Solomon, but none of them made a name for themselves in their own right.