Sir William Russell Flint, British (1880-)

Artist's Biography

Sir William Russell Flint was born in Edinburgh on 4th April 1880. Son of Francis Wighton Flint, already a watercolour artist and designer, William was fortunate to have a background for an artistic career.

After attending Daniel Stewarts College, he entered the Royal Institution School of Art in Edinburgh where he learned the ground rules of line and colour which he was to develop into his own inimitable style. However, the necessary discipline required of all great artists was learned during his six year apprenticeship as a draughtsman at a large printing works in Edinburgh.

In 1903 Russell Flint was taken on to the staff of the Illustrated London News as an artist illustrator. This was the era before photographs where drawings and engravings were the only source of illustration for this medium. With the Illustrated London News being distributed throughout the British Empire, the name of William Russell Flint was introduced around the world laying the foundation for the international status he later enjoyed as a watercolour artist.Between this time and the first world war, Flint also worked with book publishers successfully illustrating classics including "Thomas a Kempis", "The Song of Solomon", Mallory’s "Morte d’Arthur", Chaucer’s "Canterbury Tales" and Homer’s "Odyssey".

During the war Flint was in the Royal Navy Air Service and by 1918 has become Admiralty Assistant Overseer – Airships which took him back to Scotland where he renewed acquaintances with the School of Art.After leaving the Service, Flint travelled in France and Spain and began to draw and paint the landscapes and small towns of the rural regions, although most of the work we see today as limited edition prints are of his journeys through France.

In 1924 he was elected Associate of the Royal Academy and became a full member nine years later. In 1936 he became President of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour. During the second world war, Flint and his wife Sybil lived for a time on a turkey farm in Devon. His previous naval connection enabled him to visit Devonport Dockyard where he painted as and when he liked. By the end of the war, the Flints were back at Peel Cottage, Campden Hill in London. 

William Russell Flint was knighted in 1947 and painted until his death at the age of 89. His career was long and distinguished; and during his "second" half of his life, Flint developed his distinctive style - with his work becoming more free, when his watercolours, under his brush, could represent the soft textures of silks and satins or the stonework of a town building.

His paintings give immense pleasure to many people across the globe and through his limited edition prints his work enjoys a strong following from a wide public.