Portrait of Sir Luke by Downey

Portrait of Sir Luke
by Downey

Sir Samuel Luke Fildes

Dates: 1844 - 1927

Profession: Art

Address: 31 Melbury Road, W8

Dates at address: 1878 - 1927

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Fildes was born in Liverpool to James Fildes and Susanna Fogg. At eleven he began living with his grandmother. A political radical, she supported his studies despite disapproving of his choice of career. After studying in various institutions he enrolled at the Government Art Training School, South Kensington. He married Fanny Woods in 1874. They had seven children.

In 1866 he became an illustrator, preparing paintings for engraving. He went on to illustrate for The Quiver, the Cornhill Magazine, the Gentleman’s Magazine and The Graphic. His work for The Graphic attracted the attention of Dickens, who hired him to illustrate his last novel, Edwin Drood. He later branched into painting but his real skill was his illustrations, whose fans included Vincent Van Gogh. A realist, most of his work was uncompromising and hard-hitting, portraying the conditions of England’s poor, although he also painted romantic scenes and portraits.

Part of the Melbury Road Set, Fildes was a popular and loyal member. Generous and considerate, one of his most notable acts of friendship was his support for Thornycroft after his debilitating stroke. However, he could also be strict, famously informing a drunken and abusive Cecil Rhodes, “not to come for a sitting smelling of brandy.” He died at his home in Melbury Road in 1927 and is buried at Brookwood cemetery.

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