FLINT, William Russell

(1880 - 1969)
“Beauty and accomplishment are precious things; why stint one’s tribute?”

At the height of his career, William Russell Flint’s signed limited edition prints often sold out within a day and remain, decades later, highly sought collector’s items. Born in 1880, Flint laid the foundation for his skills as a watercolourist and illustrator as an apprentice draughtsman, starting at the age of 14, in an Edinburgh print factory. After six years there, he became an official medical artist, but his real breakthrough came in the early 1900s, when he began to supply illustrations for the London News, which then resulted in commissions for book illustrations.  He was interested in the classic stories of the “glorious ancients” [In Pursuit], and early examples of his work include Marcus Aurelius, The Canterbury Tales and Homer’s Odyssey.  He spent the post-war years travelling throughout Europe, drawing and painting in watercolour. He became particularly famous for his exotic female figures and Spanish dancers, usually painted from live models. The nudes attracted undue attention from contemporary critics, but in fact represented only a very small portion of his work: while critics found fault, his skill and craftsmanship made him one of the most popular artists of all time with the general public.  The last half of his life saw an enormous artistic outpouring – a burst of creativity that he obviously thoroughly enjoyed "I have always painted for fun. If it ceased to be fun I would stop painting".

In 1936 he was elected President of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour and in 1947 he was knighted by George VI. In 1962 Flint was accorded the rare distinction, shared by only 5 other Royal Academicians, of being granted an exhibition of his work in the Diploma Galleries at the Royal Academy, a tribute to his status as one of the foremost British artists of the 20th century. 


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