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Philip Wilson Steer 
English Artist (1860-1942) 

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 New 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 )



Sampling of works by Steer

What of the War? 
c. 1881

The Swiss Alps at the Earl's Court Exhibition 

The Bridge

Knucklebones, Walberswick 

c. 1889

Boulogne Sands

Girl on a Sofa 

A Classic Landscape, Richmond

Girls Running, Walberswick Pier
c. 1888-1894

Jeune femme sur la plage 
(Young woman on the beach) 

Ludlow Walks


The Music Room

The Church at Montreuil

Mrs. Violet Hammersley

Girl and St. Bernard Dog 

On the River Blackwater, Maldon
Watercolor on paper

By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2004 all rights reserved
Created: 11/12/2002
Updated 6/6/2004