Philip Wilson Steer

Born in Birkenhead on 28th December 1860, Steer was the son of an artist, who taught painting and concentrated on portraiture. When Steer was eighteen, he studied drawing and painting at the school of art at Gloucester, under John Kemp. He moved to London, and from 1880 to 1881, he attended the South Kensington Drawing Schools. Having failed to gain at place at the Royal Academy Schools, Steer went to Paris in 1882, where he studied at the Académie Julian (under Bougurean) and at the École des Beaux Arts (under Cabanel). At the latter, he became a follower of the Impressionist school, having been exposed to their work whilst in Paris, as well as that of Edouard Manet and James McNeill Whistler. He was also strongly influenced by old masters like J.M.W. Turner, John Constable, and Thomas Gainsborough.

Upon his return to England, Steer developed his characteristic style, painting sea and beach scenes in a translucent, evening light. Between 1883 and ’85, he exhibited at the Royal Academy, and in 1886, was a founder of the New English Art Club (with whom he regularly showed). Having established his Impressionistic status, Steer showed at the London Impressionist Exhibition at the Goupil Gallery in 1889. In the following decade, he turned more to watercolour, and between 1893 and 1911 he visited several Grand Tour sites.

In 1893, Steer was made Professor of Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, where he taught until 1930, alongside Henry Tonks and Walter Russell. In 1931, he was awarded the Order of Merit. During World War Two Steer was commissioned by the British War Memorials Committee to paint pictures of the Royal Navy. By then he was losing his sight. He died in London on 18th March 1942.