Luke Fildes

Luke Fildes

Sir Samuel Luke Fildes RA (1843-1927) was an English painter and illustrator born at Liverpool and trained in the South Kensington and Royal Academy schools.

At the age of seventeen Luke Fildes became a student at the Warrington School of Art. Fildes moved to the South Kensington Art school where he met Hubert von Herkomer and Frank Holl. All three men became influenced by the work of Frederick Walker, the leader of the social realist movement in Britain.

Fildes shared his grandmother's concern for the poor and in 1869 joined the staff of "The Graphic" newspaper, an illustrated weekly edited by the social reformer, William Luson Thomas. Fildes shared Thomas' belief in the power of visual images to change public opinion on subjects such as poverty and injustice. Thomas hoped that the images in the "Graphic" would result in individual acts of charity and collective social action.

In the first edition of the "Graphic" magazine that appeared in December 1869, Luke Fildes was asked to provide an illustration to accompany an article on the Houseless Poor Act, a new measure that allowed some of those people out of work shelter for a night in the casual ward of a workhouse. The picture produced by Fildes showed a line of homeless people applying for tickets to stay overnight in the workhouse. The engraving, entitled "Houseless and Hungry", was seen by John Everett Millais who brought it to the attention of Charles Dickens, who was so impressed he immediately commissioned Fildes to illustrate "The Mystery of Edwin Drood".

Fildes soon became a popular artist and by 1870 he had given up working from the Graphic and had turned his full attention to oil painting. He took rank among the ablest English painters, with "The Casual Ward" (1874), "The Widower" (1876), "The Village Wedding" (1883), "An Al-fresco Toilette" (1889); and "The Doctor" (1891), now in the National Gallery of British Art. He also painted a number of pictures of Venetian life and many notable portraits, among them the coronation portraits of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1879, and academician in 1887; and was knighted in 1906. Fildes produced a large number of caricatures for "Vanity Fair" under the "nom de crayon" "ELF". He and Henry Woods were regarded as leaders of the Neo-Venetian school. In 1874 Luke Fildes married Fanny Woods, who was also an artist and the sister of Henry Woods.

His son, Sir Paul Fildes, was an eminent scientist.



External links

* [ Phryne's list of paintings in accessible collections in the UK]
* [ New York Times 1880]
*gutenberg|no=8941|name=Lord Kilgobbin by Charles James Lever

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