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Philip Wilson Steer (British painter) 1860 – 1942

Steer was born in Birkenhead, in Merseyside, near Liverpool, the son of the portraitist, Philip Steer (1810–1871). After finding the examinations of the British Civil Service too demanding, he became an artist in 1878. He studied at the Gloucester School of Art and then from 1880 to 1881 at the South Kensington Drawing Schools. He was rejected by the Royal Academy of Art, and so studied in Paris between 1882 and 1884, firstly at the Académie Julian, and then in the École des Beaux Arts under Cabanel, where he became a follower of the Impressionist school. Between 1883 and 1885 he exhibited at the Royal Academy. In 1886 he became a founder of the New English Art Club, with whom he continued to exhibit regularly. In 1887 Steer spent some time at the Etaples art colony. His misty Impressionist style is striking in such paintings as "The Beach" and "Fisher Children". Another work for which he certainly made a preliminary study while there, "The Bridge", is now considered to have been painted in Walberswick, the English estuary town to which he next moved. Steer is best known for his landscapes, such as the Tate Gallery's "The Beach at Walberswick" (1890) and 'Girls Running: Walberswick Pier' (1894). With Walter Sickert he became a leading British Impressionist. Besides the French Impressionists he was influenced by Whistler and such old masters as Boucher, Gainsborough, Constable and Turner. He also painted a number of portraits and figure studies (e.g. 'Portrait of Mrs. Raynes' (1922). Between 1893 and 1930 Steer taught painting at the Slade School of Fine Art, London, and had among his students the etcher Anna Airy. Based in Chelsea, in the summers he painted in Yorkshire, the Cotswolds and the West Country and on the south and east coasts of Britain. During World War I he was recruited by Lord Beaverbrook, Minister of Information, to paint pictures of the Royal Navy. In 1931 he was awarded the Order of Merit and died in London, 18 March 1942. His self-portrait is in the collection in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence.

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