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Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899)

Biography of the watercolourist, illustrator and engraver Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899)

Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899) was a successful and extremely popular 19th century watercolourist, illustrator and engraver. Born in North Shields on 4th February 1825, his family moved to London in 1830. His father recognised his son's artistic talent and apprenticed him to the wood engraver Ebenezer Landells, where he worked on illustrations for Punch and the Illustrated London News.

Birket Foster became a book illustrator and taught himself to paint in watercolour. He became an instant success, elected a member of the Old Watercolour Society in 1860 and went on to exhibit some 400 works at the Royal Academy over two decades. Birket Foster travelled widely at this time, painting in Scotland, the Rhine Valley, the Swiss Lakes and Italy, especially Venice.

It was after moving to Witley in Surrey that Birket Foster started to produce the work for which he is best known; sentimentalised views of the contemporary English countryside, particularly around Surrey.

Although criticised by some for their idealised view of country life, this body of work proved very popular, and realised three figure sums in their time!

His house in Witley was partly decorated by the Pre-Raphaelites and became a centre for many artists of the day. Birket Foster lived there until 1893 when he moved to Weybridge.

Largely because of his contemporary success, his work was much faked within his life time. Genuine works are fairly easy to recognise. His finished watercolours having a stipple technique, especially on flesh, and his drawings are minutely accurate.

Birket Foster generally worked on a small scale, but he is one of very few watercolourists to make a complete success of large compositions.

Birket Foster died on 27th March 1899.

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Myles Birket Foster (1825-1899) Related Lots

Lot FS24/292

Lot FS24/292: Myles Birket Foster [1825-1899] - 'The Elderberry Gatherers

Myles Birket Foster [1825-1899] - 'The Elderberry Gatherers'- signed with monogram lower left, titled on gallery label on reverse pencil and watercolour with bodycolour on paper 33.5 x 69.5.

Estimate: £12,000 - £18,000
Realised: £11,000

Lot FS20/438

Lot FS20/438: Myles Birket Foster [1825-1899] - 'St. Andrews Stormy Seas Breaking Against the Cliffs

Myles Birket Foster [1825-1899] - 'St. Andrews stormy seas breaking against the cliffs - monogrammed and inscribed St Andrews bottom left watercolour heightened with white 58 x 835cm.

Estimate: £3,000 - £5,000
Realised: £4,800