Sir William Russell Flint was born on 4th April 1880 in Edinburgh. He was the eldest son of Francis Wighton Flint, the Scottish artist, under whom he studied painting and drawing. At the age of 14 he was apprenticed to a firm of lithographers, where he remained for 6 years. He was also taking evening classes at the Royal Institution School of Art. In 1900 Flint came to London and was first employed to do medical drawings, later being appointed to work on the ‘Illustrated London News’ from 1903-1907.
During this time he studied at Heatherley’s School in the evenings. He became interested in book illustration and produced a number of works for classical limited editions such as Malory’s ‘Morte d’Arthur’, Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ and Homer’s ‘Odyssey’.
Late in 1912 Flint and his wife went to Italy where they rented a studio in Rome. It was here that the artist discovered a local model called Peppina from Anticoli Corrado in the Sabine Hills. Her rural charm and natural beauty inspired Flint and made a lasting impression upon him.
Flint was commissioned in the First World War and it was only after the war that his career really began to flourish. He travelled to France and Spain where he produced wonderful watercolours and drawings reflecting the local scenery and culture. He was elected Associate of the Royal Academy in 1924, a full member in 1933 and he became President of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1936. In 1947 Flint was knighted by King George VI alongside the actor Laurence Olivier and the musician Malcolm Sargent.
During the post war period Flint produced his finest works. His talent with both the watercolour medium and his skill in depicting the female form created a hallmark style which would later become legendary. In 1962 his work was acknowledged by a retrospective exhibition in the Diploma Gallery of the Royal Academy which was attended by 21,000 visitors. At the time, Charles Wheeler, the President, paid tribute to the artist describing his watercolour technique as a “baffling skill”.
Sir William Russell Flint died in December 1969 aged 89. He was a modest man who once said “I have always painted for fun. If it ceased to be fun I would stop painting”. He left behind a myriad of wonderful drawings and watercolours which are in huge demand from collectors all over the world.