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William Russell Flint (1880-1969)

Born in Edinburgh, 4th April 1880, his remarkable talent was discovered at an early age. His father was a lithographer, and Flint’s first teacher. He then studied at the Royal Institution School of Art in Edinburgh, and served a six year apprenticeship at a large printing works. The work was not his calling, so he decided to move to London to become a medical illustrator at the age of 20.


In 1903 he joined the Illustrated London News, which took his talents to the far reaches of the British Empire thanks to its extensive distribution. He married Sibylle Sueter in 1905 and eventually became a freelance artist in 1907, which led him to illustrate a number of classical limited editions such as Mallory's Morte D'Arthur, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Homer's Odyssey.


The First World War approached and he served as the Admiralty Assistant Overseer of Airships.  This took him back to his native Scotland, where in 1919 he painted a tiny watercolour called Hilda's Bonnet on the linen of a fragment of HM Airship 24, which he had previously commanded.


Post World War I, William Russell Flint's artistic career began to flourish.  He painted in France and Spain (until the Civil War), where he produced wonderful paintings reflecting the local scenery and culture.


He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1924, full member in 1933 and in 1936 became President of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour.  After living in Devon during the Second World War, he and his wife Sibylle moved back to London.


His talent with both watercolour and his skill in depicting the female form created a hallmark style which would become legendary. Other artists at the time viewed his portrayal of the female form crass, but his work was highly regarded with the public and commercially very successful. He was also a published author of short stories.


Clearly what he was doing was making an impact, because in 1947 William Russell Flint was knighted.  In 1962 his work was acknowledged by a retrospective exhibition in the Diploma Gallery of the Royal Academy, perhaps one of the highest honors at the time. 


His work is found in numerous private and public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. Flint died in London, England on December 30, 1969 at the age of 89, a celebrated and successful artist whose legacy is still powerful.


Biography adapted from the Gallery of Art and Audio and Sir William Paintings and Drawings biographies.



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