Walker, Ethel (1861-1951)

English painter and sculptor. Inspired to become an artist after seeing a collection of oriental art in Edinburgh, she studied in London at the Putney Art School for two years (c. 1883) and at the Westminster School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art (1892–4) under Frederick Brown. On a visit to Spain in 1884 she was greatly impressed by Velázquez's blend of realism and myth, and in Paris she identified particularly with Manet and with the Impressionists. In 1898 she settled in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London, and established there a studio that she maintained for the rest of her life. She also painted regularly at Robin Hood's Bay, N. Yorks. The sombre tones of her early flower compositions and figures in interiors gave way to brighter, richer interpretations derived from Impressionism. In 1900 she was elected the first woman member of the New English Art Club. Her works displayed a vibrancy of colour and spontaneity of composition without any apparent interest in the scientific aspects of Impressionist colour theory. Particularly successful are her precise and uncluttered drawings and her portraits of women, such as Vanessa (1937; London, Tate), which often had a dominant key of brilliant colour. Much the same fullness of spirit pervades her flower-pieces, such as Flowers in a Jug (1935–6; London, Tate). A series of large, decorative figure paintings combined Classical themes with spiritual concerns; typical of these are the Zone of Hate (1914–15) and the Zone of Love (1930–32; both London, Tate). She also produced sculptures of these themes, which were decorative in approach and inspired by her vision of a golden age. She was elected ARA in 1940 and appointed DBE in 1943.

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