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Later Victorian Portraits Catalogue

William Powell Frith (1819-1909), Painter

Genre painter; born 8 January 1819 in Yorkshire. Trained at the Royal Academy Schools before a long exhibiting career 1838–1906; especially notable for multi-figure panoramas of Victorian social life such as Ramsgate Sands (RA 1854; Royal Coll.), Derby Day (RA 1858; Tate) and The Railway Station (RA 1862; RHUL); member of the Clique and friend of Charles Dickens; elected ARA 1845, RA 1853; married Isabella Baker 1845, Mary Alford 1881; died 2 November 1909, in London.

In later years, Frith was renowned for reactionary views on new art movements and even before his death his reputation fell drastically, recovering only in the late 20th century.

He was described as ‘The most popular and painstaking portrayer of English life and character, an indefatigable worker, wielding an essentially dramatic pencil’ and a man of genial disposition whose ‘buoyancy of spirit’ was unabated by age.[1] Of himself, Frith wrote: ‘I know very well that I never was, nor under any circumstances could have become, a great artist; but I am a very successful one.’[2]

Dr Jan Marsh

Footnotesback to top

1) MWD, vol.3, 1890, p.72.
2) Frith 1887–8, vol.1, p.5.

Referencesback to top

Adams 1936
Adams, C.K., A Catalogue of the Pictures in the Garrick Club, London, 1936.

Argyll/Lorne 1901
Argyll, J.D.S. Campbell, Duke of (formerly Marquess of Lorne), V.R.I.: Her Life and Empire, London, 1901.

Ashton 1997
Ashton, G., Pictures in the Garrick Club, ed. K.A. Burnim and A. Wilton, London, 1997.

Bills & Knight 2006
Bills, M., and V. Knight, eds, William Powell Frith: Painting the Victorian Age, London, 2006.

Brooke 1994
Brooke, X., Face to Face: Three Centuries of Artists’ Self-Portraiture, exh. cat., Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, 1994.

Chapel 1982
Chapel, J., Victorian Taste: The Complete Catalogue of Paintings at the Royal Holloway College, London, 1982.

Chapel & Gere 1985
Chapel, J., and C. Gere, The Fine and Decorative Art Collections of Britain and Ireland: The National Art Collections Fund Book of Art Galleries and Museums, London, 1985.

Cooper 1876–83
Cooper, T., Men of Mark: A Gallery of Contemporary Portraits of Men Distinguished in the Senate, the Church, in Science, Literature and Art, the Army, Navy, Law, Medicine, etc. Photographed from life by Lock and Whitfield, London, 7 ser., 1876–83.

Cowling 2004a
Cowling, M., ‘Frith, William Powell (1819–1909)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004; online ed., May 2009.

Cowling 2008
Cowling, M., Paintings from the Reign of Victoria: The Royal Holloway Collection, exh. cat., Alexandria, VA, 2008.

Frith 1887–8
Frith, W.P., My Autobiography and Reminiscences, 3 vols (vol.3 titled Further Reminiscences), London, 1887–8.

Frith 1891
Frith, W.P., John Leech: His Life and Work, 2 vols, London, 1891.

Gaunt 1972
Gaunt, W., The Restless Century: Painting in Britain 1800–1900, London, 1972.

Gillett 1990
Gillett, P., The Victorian Painter’s World, Stroud, Glos., 1990.

Hankinson 1982
Hankinson, A., Man of Wars: William Howard Russell of The Times, London, 1982.

Holdsworth & Crossley 1992
Holdsworth, S., and J. Crossley, Innocence and Experience: Images of Children in British Art from 1600 to the Present, exh. cat., Manchester City Art Gallery, 1992.

Hudson 1969
Hudson, D., ‘Billiards at the Garrick Club’, Connoisseur, December 1969, p.274.

Jones et al. 1996
Jones, S., and others, Frederic Leighton 1830–1896, exh. cat., Royal Academy, London, 1996.

London 1907–9
Prominent Men of London, Shaftesbury Press, London, 1907–9.

London [1974]
Portrait Drawings, XV–XX Centuries, exh. cat., Department of Prints and Drawings, British Museum, London, [1974].

London 1998
Art Treasures of England: The Regional Collections, exh. cat., Royal Academy, London, 1998.

Maas 1977
Maas, J., The Prince of Wales’s Wedding: The Story of a Picture, London, 1977.

Maas 1984
Maas, J., The Victorian Art World in Photographs, London, 1984.

McMaster 2008
McMaster, J., ‘That Mighty Art of Black-and-White: Linley Sambourne, Punch and the Royal Academy’, British Art Journal, Autumn 2008, pp.62–76.

McMaster 2009
McMaster, J., That Mighty Art of Black-and-White: Linley Sambourne, Punch and the Royal Academy, Edmonton, Canada, 2009.

Millais 1899
Millais, J.G., The Life and Letters of Sir John Everett Millais, 2 vols, London, 1899.

Noakes 1978
Noakes, A., William Frith: Extraordinary Victorian Painter, London, 1978.

Ormond 2010
Ormond, L., Linley Sambourne: Illustrator and Punch Cartoonist, London, 2010.

Ormond & Ormond 1975
Ormond, L., and R. Ormond, Lord Leighton, London, 1975.

Postle & Vaughan 1999
Postle, M., and W. Vaughan, The Artist’s Model from Etty to Spencer, London, 1999.

Pound 1859–60
The Drawing Room Portrait Gallery of Eminent Personages, engraved on steel by D.J. Pound, 4 vols, London, 1859–60.

Smith & Stewart 1999
Smith, A., and A. Stewart, The Harrogate Fine Art Collections, Harrogate, 1999.

Snow 1975
Snow, C.P., Trollope, London, 1975.

Swanson 1977
Swanson, V.G., Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema: Painter of the Victorian Vision of the Ancient World, London, 1977.

Victoria and Albert 1927
Catalogue of Water Colour Paintings by British Artists and Foreigners Working in Great Britain, rev. ed., London, 1927.

Wallis 1971
Wallis, N., ed., A Victorian Canvas: The Memoirs of W.P. Frith R.A., London, 1957.

Walkley 1994
Walkley, G., Artists’ Houses in London 1764–1914, Aldershot, 1994.

Ward 1915
Ward, L., Forty Years of ‘Spy’, London, 1915.

Warner 1997
Warner, M., The Victorians: British Painting 1837–1901, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, 1997.

Wood 1976
Wood, C., Victorian Panorama: Paintings of Victorian Life, London, 1976.

Wood 2006
Wood, C., William Powell Frith: A Painter & His World, Stroud, Glos., 2006.