English portrait painter William Clarke Wontner was born in Stockwell, Surrey, on 17 January 1857. Wontner received his earliest art education from his father, William Hoff Wontner, an architect, designer and renderer. Under his father’s tuition, he worked with a family friend, John William Godward, who was a notable painter in the Greco-Roman style. Godward was only five years older than Wontner, so the pair became good friends.
- In around 1885, Wontner began teaching at the St John’s Wood Art School, after he had moved to Hamilton Garden Square. As an artist steeped in Academic Classicism and Romanticism, he was a minor painter, who became part of the Neo-classical art movement in England. This was led by Alma-Tadema, whose style favoured seductively languorous women against classical or oriental marbled backdrops.
Developing a similar style to Alma-Tadema, Wontner, faithfully rendered fabrics and draped them over Anglo-European models which created an air of Orientalism. Wontner’s paintings were exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1879, and also at the Society of British Artists; and at the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours. When the Grosvenor Gallery closed in 1890, Wontner exhibited at the New Gallery.
- On 7 June, 1894, at St. Dominic’s Priory Church, Naverstock Hill, Hampstead, Wontner married Jessie Marguerite Keene (1872–1950), a daughter of Charles Joseph Keene. The couple had no children. They moved to Ripple, Worcestershire, and remained there until Wontner died on 23 September 1930 at the Worcester Infirmary. He was buried at Ripple three days later.
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