Saturday, February 19, 2011

Venus from the rear: paintings by William Etty (1787-1849)

The English painter William Etty is largely forgotten today.  Coming before the great flourishing of figure painting in the mid and late Victorian period, led by the classicists and Pre-Raphaelites, Etty's contemporaries focused on traditional British subjects like landscapes and portraits.

Etty was born in York and was apprenticed to a printer in Hull.  However, thanks to the support of his uncle he was able to pursue his studies in painting.

In 1807 he enrolled in the Royal Academy School and studied under Henry Fuseli at the Academy and and Sir Thomas Lawrence, privately.  It was Fuseli who sponsored Etty as a probationer at the Academy and his first work, as ws the case for all students, was in drawing from the Academy's collection of plaster cast statues.  Only when the required standard was met were students allowed to draw the nude from life.

The nude hadn't really been a feature of British painting at all up to this point but Etty was to change that.  Although he painted some historiical pictures he focussed almost exclusively on the nude.

In fact, his critics thought that his concentration on just the nude made him, to all intents and purposes in the early nineteenth century, a pornographer.

Etty studied anatomy and proportion for twelve years but didn't produce his first major nudes until some time later.  He continued to visit life classes at the Acadamy for his whole career and, indeed, it was said that his insistent nature led to him being banned from them eventually.

Although the press and critics deemed his paintings indecent he built up a large clientele of gentleman collectors who were more than happy to have an Etty nude in their collections.

Etty produced a large number of paintings and we have far too many pictures for one post so will group them as to pose and put up several more posts of them.

Here we have a selection of his drawings and paintings of women shown from the rear.  He perfectly captures the voluptuous hourglass shape of early nineteenth century women, often posing them against great swathes of red to emphasise the whiteness of their bodies.

William Etty

More Etty paintings another day.

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