By the death of Sir Luke Fildes RA, announced in another column the public loses one of its favourite painters, the Council of the Royal Academy a very useful and competent member, the Arts Club a valued ex Chairman, and many friends a genial and well-loved associate. Luke Fildes was born in Liverpool on 3rd October 1844, or according to some 1843, the son of James Fildes of Chester. He was educated privately in the rudiments, and when he was old enough to follow his taste for art was sent to London to study at the South Kensington Schools, then not very long established. He proceeded in time to the Royal Academy Schools, where he did well; and presently as a young man, began to make a name as an illustrator of books and magazines. One of his achievements in this branch has retained a certain celebrity, partly on its merits, but still more for the book's sake, for it was a set of illustrations to the unfinished 'Mystery of Edwin Drood.' The first no appeared in 1870, and Dickens died in the following June, the six parts of the fragments appeared two months later in a volume, with twelve illustrations. They are good renderings of the story and its characters, very much in the manner known as that of illustrations of 'the sixties,' though they will not compare with the drawings which Millais was finishing for some of the writers of The Cornhill.
Fildes soon turned to other work, and in 1872 we find him exhibiting at the RA, his first painting being 'Fair Quiet and Sweet Rest.' It was successful enough to arouse curiosity about what the young artist would do next; and his answer to the question, an answer which might almost be called triumphant, was given two years later with the large painting called 'The Casual Ward.' This piece of pathetic realism, as the term was understood in those days, made a great hit, and Fildes was henceforth a marked man. But it was his one excursion into the life of 'Les Miserables'; his tastes and talent did not lie in that direction; and he used in after years to say that the sights he saw in preparing that picture were so harrowing that he neither could or would venture into those regions of art again. He remained pathetic in 'The Return of the Penitent,' a girl returning weary and wretched to the home she had left; and also in 'The Widower,' which was one of the successes of the exhibition of 1876. Neither the public or the critics had at that time outgrown the liking for pictorial anecdotes, and Fildes satisfied these by his story-telling gifts, and the other by his clever, if a little thin technique.
Death Notice for Sir Luke Fildes in The Times
On February 27th at 11 Melbury Road, Kensington West, of pneumonia after a short illness, Sir Luke Fildes KCVO, RA aged 83. Funeral at Brookwood Cemetery tomorrow Wednesday, leaving the station Westminster Bridge Road at 11.30 a.m.
Memorial Service at St James's Piccadilly on Thursday at 3.00 p.m.
Last modified 15 July 2005