William Etty  RA- 1787-1849

Posted by Brosh Tarantino on 20th Mar 2020

William Etty RA- 1787-1849

William Etty was born on March 10th, 1787 in York. Mister Etty is best known for his nude paintings. If it was not for the financial help of his uncle, also named William Etty, he never would have been able to move to London to pursue his dream of painting. Also thanks to his uncle Mister Etty entered the Royal Academy School under probation in 1807 and became a full-fledged student in 1808. While at the Royal Academy School he studied under Sir Thomas Lawrence, which influenced his work for many years to come.

In his earlier years Etty copied much of the work of the masters who's work was hung in the National Gallery. In 1816 Mister Etty visited Florence and Paris, then went again to Italy in 1822. While in Italy he spent a majority of his time in Venice, studying the works kept there. His command of color is mostly attributed to his study there. The Venetian Academy gave him an honorary degree in 1823 for his outstanding work.

Much of his earlier work revolved around the historic and Biblical. Of all the painters who had attempted to make their career on the backs of history, Etty was one of the few who succeeded. Mister Etty returned to York in 1824 and became a full member of the Royal Academy in 1828.

Early in his career he was vastly appreciated by the art critics of his time. By 1826 a review was published stating that he had a talent that “no artist of the present day can equal”. Not all of his works were accepted without criticism, however. Many found his nudes to be degenerate and dirty, rather than the art they truly were.

In 1842 Mister Etty opened the York School of Design, later it would be called the York School of Art. Etty loved his town and wanted to help preserve it. He was a critical role in the preservation of the York town wall and Clifford's Tower.

Mister Etty considered some of his best works to be: “The Combat”, “Judith” (all three paintings), “Beniah, David's Chief Captain”, “Ulysses and the Sirens”, and the three paintings he did of Joan of Arc. Beniah, David's Chief Captain resides today in the National Gallery of Scotland, whereas Ulysses and the Sirens is held at the Manchester Gallery.

When William Etty died he was buried in the York cemetery at Saint Mary's Abbey. Many of his works still stay at the York Art Gallery where there is a life sized statue of Mister Etty just outside the front doors. He is still known for his use of color and flesh tones, as well as his mastery of the female form. While Etty was financially stable and well respected while alive, his reputation decreased upon his death and has never really gone back up. Etty was well known and well liked in his lifetime, but is not known in modern times as a household name, unlike Van Gogh, Di Vinci, Picasso, etc.

View our William Etty RA Gallery


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