Edward Poynter was a Victorian painter, draughtsman and decorative designer. As a young student he was very impressed by the academic paintings of Frederic Leighton after meeting him in Italy.
After returning from his trip to Italy, Poynter studied in London at Leigh’s Academy and the Royal Academy, but was eventually drawn to Paris, where he studied in the atelier of Charles Gleyre. Poynter and his fellow atelier students Thomas Armstrong, James McNeil Whistler and George Du Maurier became the subjects of Du Maurier’s novel Trilby.
Poynter made his reputation with his large scale historical paintings, but his real passion was the human figure. Even in his historical paintings he would go out of his way to paint partially or entirely unclothed figures so he could indulge in his passion for figure painting within the confines of what was considered proper by the Victorian art establishment, for example, working a male nude into his depiction of Romans readying a catapult for launch in The Catapult.
Poynter could also make popular works that provided a bit of titillation for the oh-so-proper Victorians clothed in the propriety of classical themes, as in A Visit to Aesclepius (image above) and The Cave of the Storm Nymphs.
He also shared Sir Lawrence Alma-Tedema’s love for exquisitely rendered figures in beautiful classical settings, and was almost his match in the rendering of marble and the other textures of classical imagery.
Poynter became a teacher and administrator, but never lost his love of drawing and painting from life models, and stressed the importance of studying the human figure in his teaching.