Sir Edward John Poynter was an English painter, draughtsman, and designer. He was one of the most distinguished British artists of his time. Highly respected, the artist was the director of the National Gallery for ten years, as well as President of the Royal Academy.
Sir Edward John Poynter was born in Paris on 20 March 1836, son of Ambrose Poynter, an important English architect. The artist was also one of the founding members of the Institute of British Architects. Though he was born in Paris, Poynter was the son of an English family, and soon after his birth, they returned to England, where he grew up.
He went to school in his childhood but had to leave due to his poor health, spending most of his winters in Rome and Madeira, in one of these trips to Rome, around age 17, he came to meet Frederick Leighton, which made a heavy impression on young Poynter.
Upon his return to England, Poynter began to study at the Royal Academy Schools and at Leigh’s Academy, soon after he would travel to Paris to study under Charles Gleyre, a classicist painter, in his studio, in this period he had as colleagues George du Maurier and James Mcneill Whistler.
At age 30, he married Agnes MacDonald, one of the four daughters of Reverend George Browne Macdonald of Wolverhampton, an important Wesleyan Methodist Minister. A curious fact is that each one of the four daughters married or gave birth to notable figures, Georgina married Edward Burne-Jones, an artist; the writer Rudyard Kipling was Alice’s son and Stanley Baldwin, three times Prime Minister of the UK, was the son of Louisa. Agnes and Poynter had three children.
Throughout his life, Poynter was contemplated by many awards and honors, as well as critical acclaim. Around his 35 years, at the University College London, he was the institution’s first Slade Professor, Poynter stood in that position until 1875, when he became, until 1881, National Art Training School’s Principal. Between 1894 and 1904, he was the director of the National Gallery and oversaw the opening of the famous Tate Gallery.