Sir William Russell Flint, R.A., P.R.W.S.
1880-1969 • Scottish
Variations on a Theme II (Cecilia)
Signed and dated “W. Russell Flint/1961” (lower right); Signed and inscribed with the title, date and a dedication on the reverse
Watercolor on paper
At once sensual and elegant, this remarkable watercolor is the work of Scottish painter Sir William Russell Flint. One of the most celebrated watercolorists of the 20th century, Flint enjoyed considerable success during his lifetime, and today his lasting reputation is tied to his remarkable talent for portraying the female form. It is his watercolor paintings such as this one of nudes and semi-nudes that are his most well-known and which command consistent and considerable attention among collectors.
In this enchanting work, a beautiful woman is rendered over and over in various poses, presenting a careful study of the ideal female form. The woman is Cecilia Green, Flint’s favorite model who appeared in many of his most important works from the 1950s and 60s. This particular composition was highly regarded by the artist himself. Flint inscribed a dedication to Cecilia on the reverse in which he states, “This watercolor, which I believe to be the best I have ever painted, is for Cecilia as a reward for her beautiful posing and for her immense help with my Royal Academy Diploma Gallery Exhibition, 1962.”
Delicately rendered and infused with lightness, the work showcases Flint’s incredible technical skill and mastery over his medium. Though he also sometimes painted in oils and tempera, his most characteristic works are his watercolors, precisely and gracefully rendered with gradations of wash and texture to incredible effect.
Born in Edinburgh, Flint began his artistic training at the age of 14 when he embarked upon a six-year apprenticeship as a lithographic draughtsman. In 1903 he joined The Illustrated London News, earning him a reputation as a gifted illustrator. After serving in World War I, Flint devoted his time to painting, and soon became an Associate Member of the Royal Academy in 1924. In a career spanning 70 years, it would be his treatment of the female figure that was considered most masterful. In 1933, he was elected a full member of the Academy and later became President of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolors. He was honored in 1962 by the Royal Academy with a retrospective exhibition of his works, and today, his watercolors reside in prestigious museums such as the Victoria & Albert Museum (London), the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York).
Completed in 1961
Paper: 19 7/8“ high x 26 3/4” wide
Frame: 34 1/2“ high x 42 1/2” wide
Ralph Lewis and Keith S. Gardner, Sir William Russell Flint, London, 2006 (illustrated, p. 99; erroneously dated '1960' and titled 'Variations II')