Sir William Russell Flint moved to London in 1900. Initially employed to do medical drawings, he was later appointed to work on the Illustrated London News from 1903 to 1907. As an illustrator his true renown arose from his illustrations of the 1912 version of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In 1924 he illustrated a new edition of Homer’s The Odyssey as well.
In the pre-war period, Flint and his wife rented a studio in Rome. It was in Italy that the artist discovered a local model called Peppina from Anticoli Corrado in the Sabine Hills. Her rural charm and natural beauty inspired Flint and made a lasting impression upon him.
Flint fought in the First World War, but after being decommissioned he travelled to Scotland, France, Italy and Spain, where he produced wonderful watercolours and drawings reflecting the local culture and customs. Flint’s paintings of Spanish girls were particularly popular, both as originals and reproductions, and escalated his standing amongst art collectors.
Flint’s talent with both the watercolour medium and his skill in depicting the female form created a hallmark style which would later become legendary. In 1962 his work was acknowledged by a retrospective exhibition in the Diploma Gallery of the Royal Academy which was attended by 21,000 visitors.
Flint was elected as a Royal Academician in 1933, became President of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolour in 1936 and was knighted by King George VI in 1947 alongside the actor Laurence Olivier.