Frederick Walker was born the son of a jewellery designer in Marylebone, London, and became an apprentice to Whymper, the engraver, in 1858. In his workshop he met the painter J. W. North, and also began to illustrate for the Dalziel brothers. His career took off in about 1860 with a series of drawings for the magazines Once a Week, Cornhill Magazine and Good Words, and Thackeray was especially pleased with Walker's designs for his writings.
Walker's illustrations are very careful and well-modelled, often showing contemporary Victorian life. His rather dissimilar painting style shows strong realism, with good, bleak colouring. Walker has been described as a follower of the Pre-Raphaelites, and may be placed in the 'social realism' school, along with Hubert von Herkomer (on whose work he had a marked influence) and Luke Fildes. Unfortunately, his career was short, as he died aged just 35, from consumption.
Walker's naturalistic painting The Bathers (1865-7) is at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight.
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Illustration // Other artists