The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Samuel Luke Fildes, 1844-1927

Nationality: English
Date of Birth: 1844.10.18
Place of Birth: Liverpool
Date of Death: 1927.02.27
Place of Death: 11 Melbury Road, Kensington, London


Samuel Luke Fildes was an English painter and illustrator who was brought up by his politically-minded grandmother Mary Fildes. In 1874 he married Fanny Woods, an artist and the sister of the painter Henry Woods.


Fildes received his artistic education at Warrington School of Art, South Kensington Art School from 1863 and then at the R.A. schools. In the 1860s he began to contribute illustrations to the Cornhill Magazine and Once a Week. He was also responsible for the illustrations to Charles Dickens' The Mystery of Edwin Drood. In the 1870s he was at the centre of the social realist school in England, producing works such as Application for Admission to a Casual Ward (1874; University of London). Following a trip to Venice in 1874, Fildes began to paint in the 1880s prettified Venetian genre scenes, e.g. Alfresco Toilette (1889; Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight). In the 1890s he was primarily concerned with painting portraits of the rich and famous, eg. Princess of Wales (1894). He was elected A.R.A. in 1879 and R.A. in 1887. He was knighted in 1906 and made KCVO in 1918.

Woods, Fildes' brother-in-law, lived in Venice from 1878 until his death in 1921. Whistler was also in Venice from September 1879 until November 1880, and Woods was known to attend his Sunday 'breakfasts'. However, Woods was critical of Whistler's lifestyle and complained of him in his letters to Fildes. He declared that Whistler borrowed 'money from everybody, and from some who can ill afford to spare it'.


Fenn, W. W., 'Our Living Artists: Luke Fildes, A.R.A.', Magazine of Art, vol. 3, 1880, pp. 49-52; Thompson, D. C., 'The Life and Work of Luke Fildes, R.A.', Art Annual, 1895, pp. 1-3; Fildes, L. V., Luke Fildes, R.A.: A Victorian Painter, London, 1968; Lee M. Edwards, '(Samuel) Luke Fildes', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 22 February 2002).