William Strang RA (1859-1921)

'Mr Strang draws and etches with the mastery to be expected in a favorite pupil of Legros: a master of whose style - noble, simple, severe - his work sends forth some very honourable reminiscences.' - a contemporary critic

The painter, etcher, engraver and illustrator William Strang, was born in Dunbarton, Scotland. The son of a builder, he worked as a clerk before coming to London in 1876 to work at the Slade School, briefly under Poynter, and then for six years as pupil and then assistant to Legros. He was a lazy pupil, working only a couple of hours a day, until, after some two years, he was struck by the work of a contemporary student, H. S. Tuke, and decided to rival him in artistry. He painted, and from the beginning of the 1880s etched, becoming a founder member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers, and exhibiting his work at the Royal Academy. As an etcher, he was extremely prolific, carrying out 180 original etchings by the age of 30. At first much influenced by his master, Legros, later he was associated with Ricketts and Shannon, and worked for C. R. Ashbee's Essex House Press. He became ARA in 1906 (as an engraver), and was elected RA in 1921, in which year he died suddenly.

Etching, Poverty

Strang painted mythological and allegorical pictures, also historical and religious, and made many excellent portraits, including hundreds of 'Holbein portrait' heads. Other subjects were sensuous nudes, and nice Rossetti-like girls, but also rather macabre and gloomy pictures. Particularly in etching, Strang chose the lives of the poor as subject matter, aiming for spirit and sentiment rather than the picturesque. He also worked as an illustrator.

Strang's etchings tend to appear in temporary rather than permanent exhibitions for obvious reasons. An oil Modern Bank Holiday hung for a long while in the restaurant of the Tate Gallery. Other oils are Suppertime at Stoke on Trent, and an excellent Nymphs and Shepherd at Glasgow City Art Gallery. A watercolour portrait by Strang is in the Dorchester museum.

Illustration from Paradise Lost.

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