18 August, 2017 | Share Article
Lund Humphries presents the first comprehensive survey of the neglected work of 19th-century watercolour artist Frederick Walker and his Idyllist contemporaries.
This is the first book in over a century to examine the important work of the watercolour artist and illustrator Frederick Walker (1840–1875) and his closest artistic allies. He was greatly admired (and collected) by Vincent van Gogh and was described by Millais as ‘the greatest artist of the century’ and yet his premature death at the age of 35 cut short his promising career. Walker, together with his close friends George John Pinwell (1842–1875), John William North (1842–1924) and friends sought unexpected beauty and charm in the everyday world of Victorian Britain. This aim was marked by a strong sympathy for the downtrodden and those on the margins of society, a sentiment which characterised their often esoteric art.
Author Donato Esposito focuses successive chapters on the lives and works of each of the core members of Walker’s group, charting their unconventional journey from a loosely bound collective rooted in the London-based black-and-white world of commercial illustration to a renowned grouping known as the Idyllists, respected and eagerly collected by galleries and private individuals in Europe, America and Australia.
The book reproduces 100 works of art mostly from public collections in the UK, the US and Australia, many of which many of which for the first time. It represents a vital contribution to the literature on Victorian art and restores the Idyllists to their rightful place in the history of British 19th-century art. The author explores how post-1945 revisionist tendencies have rehabilitated many Victorian artists’ reputations, allowing for a richer understanding of a Victorian culture that grappled with a complex range of social, economic and political issues. He argues that the Idyllists’ treatment of elegiac landscapes and genre subjects with realise motifs proved immensly influential upon successive generations including George Clausen and Stanley Spencer.
Donato Esposito is an academic and curator who specialises in 18th- and 19th-century art, collecting and taste. From 1999 to 2004 he worked as Curator in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum and was a 2012–13 Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Frederick Walker and the Idyllists, by Donato Esposito, is published by Lund Humphries (Hardback £40).