Work of the Month – November


Bathing Tents, Boulogne, circa 1891
oil on panel, signed PWS (lower left)
8 x 10 ½ inches

The son of portrait painter Philip Steer (1810-1871), Philip Wilson Steer had a strong foundation in art and went on to study in Paris from 1882-84, where he encountered the French impressionists. In 1886 he became one of the founding members of the New English Art Club. Around 1892 Steer was producing the beach scenes and seascapes that are regarded not only as his finest works but also as the best Impressionist pictures painted by an Englishman. His paintings played with the handling of light and experimented with the breaking up of colours, until around the mid to late 1890’s when he started turning more towards conventional English style. Steer taught at the Slade School from 1893 to 1930 and was recruited to paint pictures of the Royal Navy during World War I, before being awarded the Order of Merit in 1931. His sight began to fail in 1935 and he had stopped painting by 1940.

The loose brushstrokes and sparkling colours in Bathing Tents, Boulogne, brilliantly capture the transience of summer holidays, whilst drawing on theories being promoted by the most Avant Garde painters in France at the time.

Philip Wilson Steer Studio Sale, Christie’s 16-17 July 1942 to Captain Pattison Knight
Sotheby’s, 22 July 1964 to Agnew’s London
Browse  & Darby, July 1984. Private Collection, UK

Browse & Darby, July 1984
Browse & Darby, Philip Wilson Steer Exhibition, 31 October – 30 November 1985, no.12
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Philip Wilson Steer: Paintings and Watercolours, 21st January – 31st March 1986, no. 15. (organised with the Arts Council of Great Britain and subsequently toured Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle upon Tyne and Bradford)

Philip Wilson Steer by Bruce Laughton published by Clarendon Press, Oxford 1971, cat no.94, illustrated no. 55