Augustus Leopold Egg RA (1816-1863)

The painter Augustus Egg was the son of an eminent London gunmaker. He studied art at Sass's school in 1834, and the following year entered the Royal Academy Schools. From 1836 he exhibited at the Academy and other main venues, although a combination of poor health and great wealth meant that he had neither the ability nor the need to be prolific - in his whole career he showed only 28 paintings at the Royal Academy. Egg's early works were typically Italian subjects, but he later turned to historical fiction and Shakespeare for his picture themes. In the 1840s and 1850s he was part of a group of painters that included William Powell Frith, Frank Dadd and John Phillip. Later on he was much influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites, and in turn gave much encouragement to the young artists. His important Travelling Companions (1862) is a carefully detailed study of contemporary life that shows a degree of Pre-Raphaelitism in approach. His most well-known work is the series of three pictures Past and Present (1858), charting the descent of a woman from the comfortable Victorian middle class via a poor rented room to an arch underneath a bridge following an adulterous affair.

Egg became ARA in 1849 and RA in 1861. He lived in Kensington in a house called 'The Elms'. However, his health problems led him to leave England, travelling first to Italy, then to the south of France, and finally to Algiers, where he died aged only 47.

Travelling Companions is at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. A small study for the face of one of the companions is at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. Past and Present is in the collection of the Tate Gallery. Launce's Substitute for Proteus's Dog is in Leicester.

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