Edward R. King was a portrait, figure and landscape painter, the son of William Bignell King and Agnes Jane King, née Maybury. He was the brother of the painter, etcher and illustrator William Gunning King (1859-1940) and they shared an address at South Harting, near Petersfield, Hampshire.
King seems to have had no formal training as an artist although he studied the violin in Leipzig and carried on parallel careers in music and art for a time. He was active from 1884, exhibiting in London at the Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Fine Art Society, Grosvenor Gallery, New English Art Club and the Society of British Artists. JW was President of the latter society from 1886-1888. He also exhibited at the Royal Society of Artists in Birmingham, Manchester City Art Gallery and Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. King’s illustrated work was published in the Illustrated London News between 1883 and 1887 and in the Pall Mall Magazine.
His sympathetic treatment of gritty rural and urban subjects was admired by Vincent van Gogh. In 1888 he was elected a member of the New English Art Club in 1888, the year JW exhibited with the group.In 1889 King was amongst those proposed guests to a dinner organised by W. C. Symons to congratulate JW on becoming an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Munich, a dinner which was to be held at the Criterion in Piccadilly on 1 May.
However in 1925 he was committed to St James’ Hospital in Milton, Portsmouth, after suffering a breakdown following his wife’s death from consumption. although he continued to paint.
King absorbed himself in his art whilst in hospital and encouraged by staff, who recognised the importance of his art to his recovery, he became a familiar sight around the hospital farm and the waterfront at Milton Locks. He created a huge number of works during this time, and after the 1941 Blitz bombings was commissioned by the Mayor of Portsmouth to document its devastating aftermath. Now he could be seen sat painting amongst the rubble, hiding unfinished pieces within the wreckages to return to later.