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Fred Walters (1829-1888), a Pre-Raphaelite associate

THE ENGLISH PRE-RAPHAELITE PAINTERS by PERCY H BATE
NEW ENLARGED EDITION, 1903
CHAPTER XVI – SOME LESSER PRE-RAPHAELITES

FRED WALTERS (1829-1888)

 

Photograph of Fred Walters by Lewis Carroll
 
No account of the lives of the Pre-Raphaelites and their associates would be complete without mention of Fred Walters, an early chronicler of the activities of the P.R.B and a competent, yet unsuccessful painter in his own right.

Frederick Marmaduke Walters was the fourth son of the industrialist William Watkins Walters and his wife Fannie Feeney. Young Fred Waters was educated at King’s College School where he met Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his younger brother William. It was William Michael Rossetti who agreed to give Fred his first painting lessons at two shillings a week, despite not being a trained painter himself. A sickly child, Fred was eventually removed from the school due to bullying, and given a job at his father’s browning factory in Bermonsdsey, where gravy was produced and refined. The work did not suit Fred’s feeble constitution, and he soon sought alternative employment, finding work at the Illustrated London News as a journalist and occasional illustrator. His first published illustration, The Execution of Catherine Parr, was well received, although a satirical sketch The Annoying Devil was recognised by many as a thinly veiled attack against the art critic John Ruskin, who duly ensured that Fred was removed from the newspaper’s staff. Fellow illustrator Keeley Hallswelle suggested that Fred would be more suited to working for the celebrated Punch magazine, however he ended up working instead for the lesser-known Judy magazine as copy editor in 1849.
'The Execution of Catherine Parr'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)

'The Annoying Devil (Portrait of Mr & Mrs John Ruskin)'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)

It was around this time that Fred Walters came back into contact with the Rossetti brothers, who, along with William Holman Hunt and John Everett Millais, had formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Twenty year old Fred was not allowed to formally join the brotherhood, despite attending meetings and financing early exhibitions of their work.
The PRB in 1849 - Fred Walters is at the back to the right of the fireplace
 
In an attempt to prove himself as a painter, Fred exhibited a Portrait of E.M.Ward as Shakespeare at the Portland Gallery which, despite being a good likeness of the sitter, was criticised for the inclusion of a microscope. The same microscope appears in his 1850 canvas The Boyhood of the P.R.B which is also notable as the first ever picture to have the initials “P.R.B.” in the title. His 1851 painting Tea with an Invisible Friend was rejected by the Royal Academy for inclusion in the Summer Exhibition, despite Millais offering to remove one of his own pictures to allow for it to be exhibited. The wide critical acclaim of works by Millais and Hunt made Fred Walters all the more eager to ingratiate himself with them, and duly became instrumental in helping them to find new models and patrons.
'Portrait of E M Ward as Shakespeare'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)

'The Boyhood of the PRB'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)

'Tea with an Invisible Friend'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)

It was claimed by Walters that he was the first to approach Elizabeth Siddal when she was working at a hat shop near Leicester Square, however it was Walter Deverell who first managed to secure her services as a model. Lizzie did agree, however, along with Rossetti, to model for Fred Walter’s 1851 painting The Forest Scene from ‘Measure for Measure’, although it was later discovered that Fred had painted over an unfinished study of The Rest on the Flight into Egypt by Holman Hunt, the incongruous right hand figure of Hunt’s original painting still being visible. The friendship between Hunt and Walters became strained during 1852 when Fred exhibited The Hireling Sheepdog.
'Portrait of William Bell Scott'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)
 
F G Stephens not only accused Fred Walters of plagiarism, but described the picture as “a low, bestial image in the French style”. Matters got worse the following year when Fred Walters took an amatory interest in Hunt’s model, Annie Miller, and duly earned a box on the nose from the better painter. In a show of diplomacy, Fred decided to visit his old friend William Bell Scott in Tynemouth, and remained there until Hunt had left the country to travel to the Holy Land. One painting by Fred Walters still survives from his period of self-enforced exile, The Demon Bagpiper, which was presented as a gift from Walters to Scott and can still be seen hanging in a back stairwell at Penkill Castle in Ayrshire.
'The Forest Scene from Measure for Measure'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)
'The Hireling Sheepdog'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)
'The Demon Bagpiper'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)

Fred Walters returned to London in 1853, and, after a payment of ten guineas to Dante Gabriel Rossetti, was at last made an honorary member of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. To celebrate his new status as a P.R.B., Fred began work upon his only true Pre-Raphaelite painting, Our English Goats, which was still incomplete when Rossetti disbanded the brotherhood a month later. It is thought that Fred Walters turned to alcohol at about this time and became something of a reclusive figure, exhibiting only one more painting The First Commandment, in 1855, a sombre canvas showing a woman kneeling before a large vat of beer. He also worked intermittently on a modern moral subject called Found Drunk, which was never completed.
'Our English Goats'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)

'The First Commandment'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)

'Study for Found Drunk'
Fred Walters (British, 1829-1888)

After a couple of unproductive years, Fred visited Oxford in 1857, where he had been invited by Rossetti to meet the new Pre-Raphaelite disciples, William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones. Fred asked if he could see the murals that they were painting at the Oxford Union and was allowed to climb the scaffolding to view the work more closely. Still drunk from the previous evening, Fred fell from the top of a ladder and seriously injured his right arm, which subsequently had to be amputated due to infection. William Morris maintained to his dying day that it was Rossetti who was to blame for Fred’s injury. A photograph by Lewis Carroll, taken at around this time, captures the sitter’s disillusioned gaze, rather than evoking the outwardly affable, though irritatingly sycophantic character of Fred’s earlier years.

In the 1860s, Fred Walters’ activities remain something of a mystery, although in 1871 a court injunction was taken out against him by an actress named Julieanne McCambridge, who accused him of following her home from the theatre on several occasions. Julieanne had been the model for two of Millais’ paintings, The Knight Errant and The Martyr of the Solway, and Fred was clearly captivated by her beauty, although mistook her for one of the distressed damsels that she so convincingly portrayed both on canvas and upon the stage. Despite the prolonged court proceedings, Julieanne eventually agreed upon a settlement of twenty shillings, which Fred paid her as an annuity each year for the rest of his life.
Julieanne McCambridge at the Lyceum


Fred never married, and in later years moved to the East End, where the beer was inexpensive and poor lodgings could be rented for a penny a night. His last known residence was in Dorset Street, Whitechapel where he died in November, 1888, at the age of 59 years. None of his artist or journalist friends attended his funeral, although William Michael Rossetti later recalled that “without the help of that insipid fellow, Fred Walters, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood might never have existed.”


Related Links
- Pre-Raphaelite art at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
- Pre-Raphaelite paintings at the Lady Lever Art Gallery, Liverpool
- Pre-Raphaelite Vision at Tate Britain, London

 
 

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