Frederick Walker was an Englishman who was social realist painter as well and an illustrator. Sir John Everett Millais described his illustrator as “the greatest artist of the century”.
Early life of Frederick Walker ARA RWS
He was born on 26 May 1840 in 90 Great Titchfield Street, Marylebone in London. Walker was the elder among the twins and he was one of the eight children of William Henry, Jeweller, and Ann (née Powell) Walker. He was the fifth children of his parents.
William Walker who was Walker’s grandfather who had been an artist of some merit. Between 1782-1802, his grandfather exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and British Institution. In 1847, his father died and his mother was an embroideress, thus she became the chief breadwinner of the family.
Education of Frederick Walker
He received his education in a local school. Later, Walker attended the North London Collegiate School in Camden. From an early age, he showed a talent for art and he taught himself to copy prints using pen and ink. Not only this, he practiced drawing in the British Museum.
He worked in the office of an architect in Gower Street during 1855-57 but he ends up giving architecture just to become a student at the British Museum and art school at James Mathews Leigh. He was then admitted to Royal Academy as a student in 1858.
Later, in the same year, 1858, he also became a part-time apprentice wood engraver to Josiah Wood Whymper in Lambeth. Here, he met J W North and George Pinwell who were his fellow artists. During the spare time which he used to get in 2 years of his apprenticeship, Walker used to paint in both oils and watercolors.
Frederick Walker as The Illustrator
In 1859, Walker made his way into the Artists’ society in Langham Chambers. He achieved great success as a black and white illustrator for popular journals of the day such as Cornhill Magazine, Once a Week, Good Words, Everybody’s Journal, and Leisure Hour during 1860–65. The most of the work that he produced during this period was engraved by Joseph Swain.
He was introduced to the Cornhill’s editor, William Thackeray who was also a satirist and author and Walker provided drawings to him for “The Adventures of Philip”. “The Adventures of Philip” was published as a serial but then in 1862, it was published as a book. Walker also illustrated “Denis Duval” which is the unfinished novel of Thackeray, magazine stories of Thackeray’s daughter Ann Ritchie.
For the Dalziel brothers, he provided drawings such as ‘Summer days’ which appeared in 2 poetry books, A Round of Days and “Wayside Posies.
Frederick Walker The artist
In 1862, he produced his first important watercolor, ‘Strange faces’. He also won a medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1867 in the following year for ‘Philip in Church’. From 1864 until the end of his life, Walker exhibited at the Old Watercolour Society.
In February 1864, he became an associate member. He could add the postnominal initials ‘RWS’ after his name after he became a full member in 1866. In 1871, he was also elected as an honorary member of the Belgian Watercolour Society.
His first oil painting, The Lost Path was exhibited in 1863 at the Royal Academy of Art. Then came his other work, Wayfarers, Bathers, Vagrants, The Old Gate, The Plough, At the Bar, The Harbour of Refuge (1872) and The Right of Way (1875). Walker was elected an Associate Royal Academician (ARA) in 1871.
Final Years of Walker
Walker lived all his life in London with his family members including his brother John, sister Fanny and mother residing in Bayswater from 1863. In the latter year of his life, he visited Paris (1863 and 1867) and Venice (1868 and 1870) with his friend William Quiller Orchardson. He was suffering from tuberculosis which gradually worsened which caused his death in June 1875 at St Fillans in Perthshire, Scotland. He was buried at Cookham.