Sir William Russell Flint

Sir William Russell Flint

Famed as a watercolourist of remarkable technical skill, William Russell Flint also painted in oil and tempera and produced many etchings and drypoints.   It was as an artist of feminine grace that he won universal acclaim, for his picturesque gypsies, flamenco dancers and languorous nudes and half draped beauties.  For many years he also painted the landscapes and seascapes of England and Scotland, and travelled abroad, where he painted in Switzerland, Italy, Spain and France.

Born in Edinburgh in 1880, Flint was the eldest son of a commercial designer and watercolourist, Francis Wighton Flint.  He was educated at Daniel Stewart’s College, and at the age of fourteen he took up a six year apprenticeship as a lithographic artist and designer with a firm of printers.  He also attended evening classes at the Royal Institute School of Art, studying under C.W. Hodder.

In 1900, Flint moved to London and started work as a medical illustrator. Between 1902 and 1903 he worked as a commercial designer and magazine illustrator, appointed to the Illustrated London News. During this time he also attended evening classes at Heatherley’s Art School, where he met and later married Sybylle Sueter in 1905.  Already a successful black and white draughtsman, he now turned to colour illustration and was commissioned by the Medici Society to make illustrations for several of their de luxe editions, including Malory’s Morte d’Arthur and Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

During the First World War, Flint served as a lieutenant in the RNVR and later as a captain in the RAF.  He was attached to the RNAS Airship section from 1916 to 1918 and was Admiralty Assistant Overseer on HM Airship R34 from 1918 to 1919.

After the war, Flint established his reputation as a painter, and became one of the most sought after artists of the day.  Whilst his work won immediate favour with amateurs and connoisseurs alike, the exhibiting societies were also quick to give him official recognition.  He was elected a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1912, a member of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours in 1917, and President of the latter from 1936-56. He became a fellow of the Royal Society of Painters, Etchers and Engravers in 1933. He was knighted in 1947, and accorded a one-man exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1962, the highest distinction that an artist can achieve during his lifetime.