William Etty (1787–1849)
Born in York, the English painter William Etty was one of the few British artists to specialise almost exclusively in painting the nude.
He was criticised in the press for his ‘fleshiness’ and gained a reputation for ‘indecency’. As such, he often painted mythological or historical subjects, sometimes on an ambitious scale. Thanks to his dedication to life studies in the Royal Academy Schools throughout his career, it was clear that his works were painted from real, naked models – not some imagined ideal, and for many this was shocking.
Etty was passionate about the idea of a ‘British school’ of painting, and today his works feature in many museums and galleries up and down the country. Few British artists have ever approached the painting of flesh in the same way as he did – curvaceous, beautiful and unashamed.