The mystery of The Unidentified Artist Formerly Known As William Etty. Is he actually Quiller Orchardson? Examine their nudes carefully & decide for yourself.
These life studies were once thought, by the Royal Academy where they are held, to be the work of the great William Etty. But there’s a problem. Etty died in 1949 and one of the sheets the nudes were drawn on is watermarked 1850. A year after Etty died. The colouring, poses and general effects of the studies do however, resemble Etty’s work. They also differ from it in certain details. These studies are on paper. Etty preferred to use millboard. Also, the draughtsmanship shows greater levels of attention to anatomical correctness than would usually be evident in Etty’s work.
The artist’s identity is still a mystery. What we do know is that, according to the Royal Academy they are almost certainly the work of a British painter active during in the mid-19th century. The sheets were kept iat the RA n a portfolio marked “Orchardson”. It’s distinctively possible that they are by, or somehow connected with a Scottish painter named William Quiller Orchardson. In 1916, a large group of Orchardson’s paintings, drawings and belongings were presented to the Royal Academy by his widow, Lady Orchardson. It’s possible these studies were separated from the rest of the group early on and later mistaken for Etty’s ‘Academy studies’.
Here’s a couple of (quite rare) William Quiller Orchardson nude studies.