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Sir Edward Poynter

Sir Edward Poynter was Director of the National Gallery and President of the Royal Academy at the turn of the last century.

Born in Paris on 20 March 1836, Poynter had attended a number of schools in England before turning towards training as an artist in 1852. In 1853 he visited Rome where he worked in the studio of Frederic, Lord Leighton and formed a close artistic relationship.

On returning to London he continued his studies and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1855 (he would later be elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1869 and a Royal Academician in 1876). Poynter moved to Paris in 1856, spending three years in the studio of the Swiss painter Charles Gleyre, where his fellow students included the cartoonist and writer George du Maurier and the American artist James McNeill Whistler.

Poynter enjoyed success both as a painter and as a designer prior to a career in more official roles. From 1871 to 1875 he was the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at University College London and from 1875 to 1881 he took up the position of Principal of the National Art Training School. He finally became Director of the National Gallery in May 1894, a position he held for 10 years until the end of 1904.

Two years after his arrival at the National Gallery in 1896, Poynter was elected President of the Royal Academy and retained that post until 1918. He died the following year, on 26 July 1919, and was buried in St Paul’s Cathedral.