Steer was among the leaders of British
artists in his generation who looked to France for inspiration. One of
the only few truly English Impressionist. He trained in Paris 1882-4 (around
the time Sargent was reaching his height there) and revisiting France four
times between 1887 and 1891. He was one of the founding members of the
English Art Club in 1886.
Steer had a strong art foundation
with his father being the the portrait painter Philip Steer (1810-1871).
In 1892 the Anglo-Irish novelist
George Moore wrote 'it is admitted that Mr Steer takes a foremost place
in what is known as the modern movement' and around this time Steer was
producing the beach scenes and seascapes that are regarded not only as
his finest works but also as the best Impressionist pictures painted by
an Englishman, which, on the whole, seemed to have missed, almost completely,
the Impressionist movment outside the few within the New English Art Club.
His paintings played with the handling
of light, experimenting with breaking up the colors such as what Monet
was doing at this same time -- particularly in these series of summer holiday
scenes painted on the East Coast, at Walberswick and Southwold in Suffolk
-- until around the mid to late 1890's when he finally kowtowed to the
ever present critics who continually howled incessantly at his paintings
and his work started turning more and more towards conventional English
style such as Turner, and Constable. Not all were against him. So typically
in character, John Singer Sargent in 1900, served as chairman of a dinner
given in honor of the Steer for what he and his art had been accomplishing
whether realized by the critics or not.
During the WWI, he was recruited
by Lord Beaverbrook, the Minister of Information, to paint pictures of
the Royal Navy.
In the 1920s he turned increasingly
to watercolors. He taught at the Slade School from 1893 to 1930 and in
1931 was awarded the Order of Merit. His sight began to fail in 1935 and
he had stopped painting by 1940.
(Mostly From: Oxford Dictionary
of Art, Oxford University Press 1997 )