William Etty RA (1787-1849)
Study of a male nude, crouching, his left hand holding a wooden staff
Oil on board, 61cm by 47cm
William Etty was born the son of a baker in York. Though he had no artistic influences, he expressed an interest in art from an early age. His uncle, a wealthy banker, encouraged him to pursue a career as a painter. In 1798 Etty took a position as a printer's apprentice, but in 1807 enrolled at the Royal Academy Schools where he began to exhibit in 1811. His first success came in 1821 with Cleopatra's Arrival in Sicily. Etty was a follower of the Italian masters of the Renaissance and travelled to Rome for two years where his admiration grew. His subjects are mainly classical and mythological, commonly depicting female nudes. The sensual nature of his paintings scandalised the Victorian public, and he was often accused of being indecent. Many considered his work to be unfashionable but due to the death of his uncle in 1809 Etty became financially independent and was able to choose his own subjects. He was elected ARA in 1824 and RA in 1828. He died in his hometown of York in 1849.