Edward Thompson Davis

(1833 - 13 June 1867)

Subject painter. He was born at Worcester and studied at the School of Design in that city, where he gained several prizes. He first exhibited at the Academy, in 1854, 'Meditation,' a small domestic subject, and continued an exhibitor of works of that class; in 1858, 'Granny's Spectacles;' in 1859, 'Doing Crochet Work;' in 1861, 'Words of Peace;' in 1867, 'The Little Peg-top.' [A dictionary of artists of the English school: painters, sculptors, architects, engravers and ornamentists, Samuel Redgrave, 1878.]


Worcestershire artist, Edward Thompson Davis’ limited output has meant he has not had the critical acclaim he deserves; his technical skill and sensitive handling of his subjects place him among the great Victorian artists.

Davis died tragically at the early age of 34 during a cholera outbreak in Rome, where he had travelled to study. During his short working life he exhibited 20 paintings at the Royal Academy but the majority of his work was in commissions from wealthy collectors, particularly those living in or near his native Worcester.

Davis was a contemporary of the great landscape painter Benjamin Williams Leader at the Worcester School of Design and they were close friends. Research shows that they worked together on at least one painting (A View of Frog Lane, 1854, collection unknown) with Leader painting the street scene and Davis the figures.

Davis’ technical ability in putting together a powerful picture is clear in this example where the curved top of the canvas cradles the figures. We know he carefully worked out each composition using detailed figure sketches and drapery studies, before the final picture could be started.

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