William Etty

The Life and Art

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About the Book

English painter William Etty (1787–1849) believed women were “God’s most glorious work.” His determination to present that glorious work in its finest light led to criticism in his day for his choice of nudes as subjects. Today, Etty deserves recognition for his place in the history of English art.
The life and work of William Etty are thoroughly explored and generously illustrated in this biography. Chapters detail his family background and childhood, his home in York, his life in London and at the Royal Academy of Arts, and his struggles to make a living. His studies in Italy and France and his career as a painter are explored as are his work with the York School of Design in his final decade, his place in the fine arts market and his emulators. An appendix examines Etty’s relationship with his niece Betsy, his caretaker, housekeeper and assistant.

About the Author(s)

A member of the Association of Art Historians, Leonard Robinson is a former vice-president of the Friends of York Art Gallery. He holds a First Class Honours Arts Degree from The Open University and in 1975 was made a member of the Order of the British Empire (M.B.E.). For twenty years he lectured extensively on art history for the Workers’ Educational Association and Hull University. He founded a local arts society which still flourishes.

Bibliographic Details

Leonard Robinson
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 523
Bibliographic Info: 101 photos, (28 color glossy photos) appendix, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2011 [2007]
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6775-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgments       vii

List of Illustrations      xiii

Foreword by Tom Etty      1

Preface      3

Introduction      5

CHAPTER ONE

The Etty family, Etty’s birth and early years      19

The shape of things to come      31

Education      34

CHAPTER TWO

“One of the fairest of England’s cities”      39

“Servitude and slavery”      47

CHAPTER THREE

Life in London      52

A second apprenticeship      58

A rewarding pupilage      69

CHAPTER FOUR

Unsettled and solitary      74

Finding his way      76

Slow beginnings and widening horizons      80

Death of his father      88

Success at home      90

CHAPTER FIVE

The Grand Tour—A second attempt      95

“The spell is broken”      96

Success in Venice      99

“Fever of heart”      108

A confession?      110

CHAPTER SIX

Further successes and material improvements      113

“An honor conferred”      118

Further recognition—Meeting with Delacroix      119

A troublesome patron      123

Revisiting York      125

“We must keep the foreigners from fooling us!”      126

CHAPTER SEVEN

“I have triumphed!”      132

A familiar allegory reworked      135

A fair exchange?      143

His mother’s death      144

“The Vandals strike again”      146

Between pages 152 and 153 are 16 color plates containing 28 illustrations

CHAPTER EIGHT

“An irreparable loss”      153

Mixed reactions      156

A change of Academic patronage      162

Unpleasant experiences in France      165

“An affair of the Heart”      169

Etty and politics—Reactions to reform      170

CHAPTER NINE

A tour of the north      173

“A general allegory of Human Life”      178

Defender of antiquities      181

The letters of Ridolfi      184

A second Ridolfi      188

A variety of portraits      191

CHAPTER TEN

“The War of the Walls”      197

“Some great moral on the heart”      207

A missed opportunity      209

Illness and convalescence      210

An exhibition in York      216

A strange appointment      222

More advice from Ridolfi Minor      223

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Divergent opinions      227

“Beauty, action, masculine vigour”      232

The National Gallery      235

“A nasty little pokey hole”      239

An important appointment—The Schools of Design      241

CHAPTER TWELVE

A change of monarch, a change of style      246

A childlike humor      249

Critical appreciations      253

Painting the Lady Mayoress      260

Etty’s painting methods      263

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

“I am not a Protestant” … “I am not a Catholic”      267

“Premiums for Crime”      276

Etty and money      280

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

A qualified tribute from one artist to another      288

Another important appointment—The National Gallery      289

“Nature supreme and over all”      291

Summer excursions      293

A prestigious appointment—The Houses of Parliament      296

A royal command      301

“Let Brotherly Love Continue”      304

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

“The Judith of modern times”      314

York Minster again      320

Planning for retirement      324

“The new Maecenas”      327

Distinguished portraits      331

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

Etty and his models      336

“Never to marry!”      349

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

The York School of Design      357

Failing powers      364

Excursions and alarums      368

A reluctant departure      370

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

Who bought Etty’s paintings?      375

CHAPTER NINETEEN

“A piece of egotism”      402

A curious intervention      404

Recognition by fellow artists      407

Praise from a famous poet      412

Increasing ill-health and other worries      413

A final imprudence      414

CHAPTER TWENTY

Final wishes unfulfilled      416

“A Sordid Topic”      419

A hurried sale      422

Posthumous appreciations      423

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

Etty’s successors      431

Etty in the Twentieth Century      444

Summation      454

Appendix. Betsy      457

Chapter Notes

Abbreviations and Full References      477

The Notes      478

Bibliography      483

Index      487

Book Reviews & Awards

“thoroughly researched, clearly written, and beautifully illustrated…a massive work of scholarship that should be included in every art library”—Library Journal.