Albert Goodwin was born in Maidstone in Kent and was able to maintain a career as a successful artist for a lifetime, as painter of landscapes and imaginative subjects. He is particularly noted for his atmospheric watercolour landscapes painted with a virtuoso technique. Goodwin first exhibited at the Royal Academy at the age of fifteen, with a Ruskinian oil painting Under the Hedge. In the early 1860s, he studied under Arthur Hughes and Ford Madox Brown. In this decade Goodwin began to abandon oils for watercolours, and started exhibiting at the Dudley Gallery. The Dudley Gallery was a natural choice of venue for Goodwin at this period of transition.
Hughes introduced Goodwin to Ruskin around 1870. It was as a watercolourist that Ruskin employed him in the 1870’s and 1880’s in his project to record endangered buildings. In 1872 Goodwin travelled with Ruskin and Arthur Severn to Italy. This was the first of many trips abroad that he made both for Ruskin and independently. His travels would take him throughout Europe, India, Egypt and the South Seas.
Like Turner, Goodwin was a master of all the techniques used in water-colour painting, employing at various times (and not infrequently all together) watercolour, bodycolour, pen and ink, chalk, pastel and gum, on white or tinted papers, with the whole sometimes neatly enclosed in a beautifully designed, hand-painted border. In order to achieve the subtle lighting effects associated with dawn and sunset – his favourite times of the day – he wiped and scraped and ‘…hammered at them with the blade of a safety-razor, a knife, sandpaper, sponge, rag, and a fitch brush.
Goodwin was also one of the first Victorian artists to add pen and ink to finished watercolours. Ruskin admired his works greatly, despite that fact that they sometimes sacrificed antiquarian to atmospheric qualities. Goodwin was elected Associate of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1871 and Member in 1881.