Luke Fildes KCVO RA (3 October 1843 – 28 February 1927)
was an English painter and illustrator born in
Liverpool and trained
at the South
Royal Academy schools. He was the grandson
of the political activist Mary Fildes.
At the age of seventeen Fildes became a student at the Warrington
School of Art. Fildes moved to the South
Kensington Art School where
Hubert von Herkomer
Hubert von Herkomer and Frank Holl. All three men became
influenced by the work of Frederick Walker, the leader of the social
realist movement in Britain.
Fildes shared his grandmother's concern for the poor and in 1869
joined the staff of
The Graphic newspaper, an illustrated weekly began
and edited by the social reformer, William Luson Thomas. Fildes shared
Thomas' belief in the power of visual images to change public opinion
on subjects such as poverty and injustice. Thomas hoped that the
The Graphic would result in individual acts of charity and
collective social action.
Fildes' illustrations were in the black-and-white style popular in
France and Germany during the era. He worked in a social realist
style, compatible with the editorial direction of The Graphic, and
focussed on images depicting the destitute of London. The Graphic
published an illustration completed by Fildes the day after Charles
Dickens' death, showing Dickens' empty chair in his study; this
illustration was widely reprinted worldwide, and inspired Vincent van
Gogh's painting The Yellow Chair.
In the first edition of
The Graphic newspaper that appeared in
Luke Fildes was asked to provide an illustration to
accompany an article on the Houseless Poor Act, a new measure that
allowed some of those people out of work to shelter for a night in the
casual ward of a workhouse. The picture produced by Fildes showed a
line of homeless people applying for tickets to stay overnight in the
workhouse. The wood-engraving, entitled Houseless and Hungry, was seen
by John Everett Millais, who brought it to the attention of Charles
Dickens; Dickens was so impressed that he immediately commissioned
Fildes to illustrate
The Mystery of Edwin Drood
The Mystery of Edwin Drood (a book Dickens never
finished as he died while writing it).
Fildes' illustrations also appeared in other mass-circulation
periodicals: Sunday Magazine, The Cornhill Magazine, and The
Gentleman's Magazine. He also illustrated a number of books in
addition to Dickens' Edwin Drood, such as Thackeray's Catherine
The Widower, 1875-6
Fildes soon became a popular artist and by 1870 he had given up
The Graphic and had turned his full attention to oil
painting. He took rank among the ablest English painters, with The
Casual Ward (1874), The Widower (1876), The Village Wedding (1883), An
Al-fresco Toilette (1889); and The Doctor (1891), now in Tate Britain.
He also painted a number of pictures of Venetian life and many notable
portraits, among them portraits commemorating the coronation of King
Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. He was elected an Associate of the
Royal Academy (A.S.A.) in 1879, and a
Royal Academician (R.A.) in
1887; and was knighted by
King Edward VII
King Edward VII in 1906. In 1918, he was
Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) by
King George V. Fildes produced a large number of caricatures for
Vanity Fair under the nom de crayon "ELF". He and Henry Woods were
regarded as leaders of the Neo-Venetian school. In 1874 Luke Fildes
married Fanny Woods, who was also an artist and the sister of Henry
The grave of
Luke Fildes in Brookwood Cemetery
Fildes' first son, Philip, died of tuberculosis in 1877. The image of
the doctor at his son's side during the ordeal left a lasting memory
of professional devotion that inspired Fildes' 1891 work The
Doctor. His later son, Sir Paul Fildes, was an eminent scientist. A
blue plaque marks Fildes's former house, Woodland House, in Melbury
Road, Kensington, next to William Burges's Tower House. His home was
later owned by film director Michael Winner. He is buried in
"The Doctor" by Luke Fildes
In 1949 Fildes' painting The Doctor (1891) was used by the American
Medical Association in a campaign against a proposal for nationalised
medical care put forth by President Harry S. Truman. The image was
used in posters and brochures along with the slogan, "Keep Politics
Out of this Picture" implying that involvement of the government in
medical care would negatively affect the quality of care. 65,000
posters of The Doctor were displayed, which helped to raise public
scepticism for the nationalised health care campaign.
Works by Fildes
Fildes' painting of his son Paul Fildes
Venetia James (1895)
A Venetian Flower Girl (1877)
Edward VII in coronation robes (1901)
King George V
King George V (1911)
Related to Fildes
Luke Fildes "ELF" by Spy
Blue plaque at
Woodland House (placing his birth year one year later)
^ a b Souter, Nick and Tessa (2012). The Illustration Handbook: A
guide to the world's greatest illustrators. Oceana. p. 26.
^ The London Gazette, 3 August 1906
^ Supplement to The London Gazette, 3 June 1918
^ "The Tate Collection". Retrieved 29 December 2009.
^ Christopher Hibbert Ben Weinreb; John & Julia Keay (9 May 2011).
The London Encyclopaedia (3rd Edition). Pan Macmillan.
pp. 539–. ISBN 978-0-230-73878-2. Retrieved 21 June
Michael Winner on collecting Donald McGill". The Arts
Desk. Retrieved 1 July 2012.
^ Verghese, Abraham (12 June 2009). "To the AMA: It's Not About You".
The Atlantic. Retrieved 25 September 2014.
This article incorporates text from a publication now in
the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fildes, Sir
Luke". Encyclopædia Britannica. 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University
Press. p. 339.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Samuel Luke Fildes.
111 Painting(s) by or after
Luke Fildes at the
Art UK site
Luke Fildes at Project Gutenberg
Works by Samuel
Luke Fildes (illustrator) at Faded Page (Canada)
Works by or about
Luke Fildes at Internet Archive
Sir Luke Fildes
New York Times 1880
Lord Kilgobbin by Charles James Lever at Project Gutenberg
ISNI: 0000 0001 0911 2015
BNF: cb14973838b (data)