The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Augustus Leopold Egg, 1816-1863

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1816.05.02
Place of Birth: London
Date of Death: 1863.03.26
Place of Death: Algiers


Augustus Leopold Egg was a historical genre painter. He was the son of a gunsmith. In 1860 he married Esther Mary Brown.


Egg studied at Henry Sass's Academy and at the R.A. Schools. In the 1840s he became part of a sketching club, the Clique, that included John Phillip, Richard Dadd, Henry Nelson O'Neil and William Powell Frith. The subjects of his paintings were taken from British history and literature, particularly Shakespeare and Walter Scott, and were executed in a dramatic and colourful manner. In the 1850s and 1860s he came under the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites, painting such modern moral subjects as Past and Present (1858; Tate Gallery, London). In 1862 JW hung his Symphony in White, No. I: The White Girl (YMSM 38) at Matthew Morgan's gallery in Berners Street, alongside works by Frith and Egg.

From the late 1830s onwards Egg exhibited in London at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Society of British Artists, which was to make JW its President in 1886. He also in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. He was elected A.R.A. in 1849 and R.A. in 1861. Ill health meant that he spent much of his time abroad in France and Italy.

In a draft of a letter dating from 1886, JW made a disparagingly reference to Egg: 'What you call English Art, is not Art at all - but produce of the Market - of which there is & always has been & always will be plenty - no matter whether men [furnishing] it are dead and called Egg or Elmore' (#13353).


Pennell, Elizabeth Robins, and Joseph Pennell, The Life of James McNeill Whistler, 2 vols, London and Philadelphia, 1908; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971; Dorment, Richard and Margaret F. MacDonald, James McNeill Whistler, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London, 1994; Faberman, Hilarie, 'Augustus Egg', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 30 October 2002).