British painter, the best-known member of a family of artists. He specialized in romantic historical scenes (often from his own imagination rather than based on a particular event or literary source) and—in the later part of his career—portraits; he also occasionally produced scenes of modern social drama. At his best, he painted with a sumptuous technique and a feeling for bold and unusual lighting effects, but he could be rather twee.
He was at the height of his esteem at the turn of the century: in 1900 he was awarded a medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition, and in the same year his pious medieval pageant The Two Crowns (Tate) was voted the most popular picture at the *Royal Academy summer exhibition. By the end of his career, however, he was regarded as distinctly old-fashioned, and when he was elected president of the Royal Academy in 1924, this was seen as a concession to his seniority rather than as an indication of his standing in the art world. He was strongly opposed to modernism in art and his speeches as president fit the stereotype of the old attacking the new.
Text Source: The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists (Oxford University Press)