Edward Robert King
Edward Robert King was born in 1863 in Kensington, London into a middle-class family. As a child he had an early introduction to art; every year his father would take him and his brother Gunning to Eastbourne where they would all go sketching. At the age of fourteen he started to sell his paintings in Tottenham Court Road for five shillings each, and at the same time he played the violin in the Covent Garden Orchestra. In 1878 at the age of fifteen he and his brother were sent to Leipzig in Germany to study both art and music, returning to London in their late teens.
Edward had art training in Paris at the Julian Academy and then briefly at the Slade School of Art. It was around this time he became friends with Walter Sickert, James McNeill Whistler and John Atkinson Grimshaw. He found work initially as an illustrator, and in the 1880s his sketches were published in Punch magazine, and the Illustrated London News. His sympathetic treatment of gritty rural and urban subjects was admired by Vincent van Gogh, who admired King’s ‘striking, powerful virile drawing’.
In 1888 Edward was elected a member of the New English Art Club, and from then until 1924 he exhibited over 50 works at the Royal Academy. During this time he lived in South Harting near Petersfield with his brother Gunning, who was also making a successful career as an artist. In 1895 Edward married Amelia Emily Hudson and they initially settled in Cornwall. Between 1912–1924 he travelled a great deal and lived in various places including Dorset, Devon and Sussex, painting mostly figurative scenes.
In 1924 Edward King’s wife died and just as his work was gaining wider recognition, he suffered a breakdown. Suffering with depression, he was committed to St James’ Hospital in Portsmouth in 1926, where he remained until his death in 1951.
For many years as a patient he was in an unresponsive state but over time was encouraged by the hospital staff to start painting again. In 1941, during the Second World War, he was commissioned by the Lord Mayor to paint the aftermath of the Blitz in Portsmouth. From this point he continued to paint daily, focusing on landscapes and coastal scenes of the local area, right up until he died at 88 years old, in 1951.