Attrib William Etty RA, Female Figure Study -Early 19th-century graphite drawing


An original early 19th-century graphite drawing, Attrib. William Etty RA Female Figure Study.

This elegant small sketch bears an attribution to the artist William Etty RA (1787-1849), the first significant British painter of nudes and still lifes. Etty is enjoying a revival on the basis of his groundbreaking work in depicting the nude. Here the female figure is clothed, albeit in a simple Empire line dress which seems to blur lines between Regency woman and Classical nymph, and which follows the sinuous lines of her lifted arm and tilted neck. William Etty included numerous sensuously curved figures in his oil paintings. The sketch also resembles the brief preliminary sketches of Sir Thomas Lawrence, whom Etty greatly admired and studied under, spending a year’s apprenticeship in Lawrence’s attic copying the elder artist’s work.

In graphite on wove paper with partial watermark 'G[...] 1[...]'. There is also an additional graphite figure sketch on the verso. Laid down on card with gilt and wash-line and window cut verso. Presented in an ivory mount.

Provenance: From the Collection of Dr E.M. Brett of Hampstead

Inscribed on the card mount, as shown.
Slight age toning and creasing. There is an abrasion to the card mount on the verso, which does not affect the image. Please see photos for detail.
10.5cm x 8.6cm.

William Etty RA (1787-1849) was born in York, son of a baker and confectioner. After an apprenticeship in Hull he moved to London, joining the Royal Academy Schools in 1807. Assisted by a wealthy and generous uncle, there he studied under Thomas Lawrence and trained by copying works by Lawrence and other artists. Etty earned respect at the Royal Academy of Arts for his ability to paint realistic flesh tones, but had little commercial or critical success in his first few years in London.

In 1821 he exhibited the large history painting, Cleopatra's Arrival in Cilicia, which featured numerous nudes and was met with great acclaim. A number of history paintings followed, all including at least one nude, and he developed a reputation for indecency. John Constable, Etty’s friend and rival, even famously labelled one of Etty’s paintings, Youth at the Prow and Pleasure at the Helm, a ‘bumboat’ picture, so crammed it is with nudes.

Etty nevertheless achieved commercial and critical success, and was elected a Royal Academician in 1828. In the 1830s he began turned to the more lucrative field of portraiture, and later became the first English painter to paint significant still lifes. He continued to also paint both male and female nudes, and studied at life classes throughout his life, a practice considered inappropriate by his fellow artists.

Changing tastes in the second half of the 19th century caused his work to fall out of favour. In the 21st century his work has enjoyed a significant revival, with a major retrospective at York Art Gallery in 2011-12.

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Product code: JN-616

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