Henry Scott Tuke was a British photographer and painter born in York, in June 1858. With only one year of age, his family moved with him and his older brother to Falmouth, on the southern coast of Cornwall, England. In 1861, Tuke’s younger sister was born, Maria Tuke Sainsbury, who would later become his biographer as well.
Although some men in Tuke’s family became doctors and physicians, like his father, he was encouraged to paint from an early age. The young artist already showed his talents and published drawing around the age of four.
By 1875, Tuke was learning under Sir Edward Poynter and Alphonse Legros, at the Slade School of Art, in London. Two years later, the painter won a full scholarship, which allowed him to continue at the school until 1880 when he went to study in Italy.
By 1881, Tuke met with French painter Jules Bastien-Lepage in Paris, where he stayed for about three years. Lepage introduced the British artist to the wonders of painting en plein air, a French term for painting outdoors, which would later be adopted by the Impressionists as well. Tuke studied under Jean-Paul Laurens, a history painter, and also met with the renowned American artist John Singer Sargent.
The 1880s were a significant time for Tuke as an artist, mostly because of his contact with new influences and inspirations. Sargent, like himself, was a painter of male nudes. Tuke also met other artists of what we know today as LGBT, like Oscar Wilde and John Addington Symonds.
The Newly School was founded in 1883 by Tuke along with other artists like Thomas Cooper Gotch, Walter Langley, and Albert Chevallier Tayler. This art colony was based near a fishing village called Newly in Britain, where Tuke had moved. The group was reminiscent of the French Barbizon School, as they focused on painting en plein air, focusing on the daily life of the fishermen and the natural landscape that surrounded them.
Although Tuke continued with the same subject matter, his paintings became more Impressionistic than of the other artists of the Newly School, and he eventually took his own path. It was not until 1885 that the painter had male nudes as the central theme of his production. He settled in Swanpool, where he created his boat studio to continue painting his marine-themed paintings of young men sunbathing, and remained there until his death.