William Edward Frost (September 1810 – Jun 4, 1877) was an English painter of the Victorian era. Virtually alone among English artists in the middle Victorian period, he devoted his practice to the portrayal of the female nude.
About 1825, through William Etty, R.A., he was sent to a drawing school in Bloomsbury, and after several years’ study there, and in the sculpture rooms at the British Museum, Frost was in 1829 admitted as a student in the schools of the Royal Academy. He won medals in all the schools, except the antique, in which he was beaten by Maclise. During those years he maintained himself by portrait-painting.
He established a reputation as a portrait painter before branching into historical and mythological subjects, including the subgenre of fairy painting that was characteristic of Victorian art.
In 1839 he won the Royal Academy’s gold medal for his Prometheus Bound, He is said to have painted about this time over 300 portraits. In 1839 he obtained the gold medal of the Royal Academy for his picture of ” Prometheus bound by Force and Strength.”
and in 1843 he won a prize in the Westminster Hall competition for his Una Alarmed by Fauns.
At the cartoon exhibition at Westminster Hall in 1843 he was awarded a third-class prize of £100 for his cartoon of ” Una alarmed by Fauns and Satyrs.” He exhibited at the Academy ” Christ crowned with Thorns” (1843), ” Nymphs dancing ” (1844), ” Sabrina ” (1845), ” Diana and Actaeon ” (1846). In 1846 he was elected Associate. of the Royal Academy. His ” Nymph disarming Cupid ” was exhibited in ;” Una and the Wood-Nymphs ” of the same year was bought by the queen. This was the time of Frost’s highest popularity, which considerably declined after 1850. His later pictures are simply repetitions of earlier motives. Among them may be named ” Euphrosyne ” (1848), ” Wood-Nymphs ” (1851), ” Chastity ” (1854), ” Il Penseroso ” (1855), ” The Graces ” (1856), ” Narcissus ” (1857), ” Zephyr with Aurora playing ” (1858), ” The Graces and Loves ” (1863) , ” Hylas and the Nymphs ” (1867).
He was elected an associate member of the Royal Academy in 1846, Frost was elected to full membership of the Royal Academy in December 1871. This dignity, however, he soon resigned. Frost had no high power of design, though some of his smaller and apparently less important works are not with- out grace and charm. Technically, his paintings are, in a sense, very highly finished, but they are entirely without mastery. He died on the 4th of June 1877.
Frost is widely recognized as a follower of William Etty, who preceded him as the primary British painter of nudes in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Despite the prudishness of the Victorian era, Frost’s relatively chaste nudes were popular, and his career was financially successful.
Afterwards he directed himself more towards Etty, the painter of beautiful women, and preferred to portray mythological objects. Among these are the admired images of his time:
The dancing nymphs (1844),
Diana and Actaeon (1846),
Una and the Forest Nymphs (1847),
The disarmed cupid,
The robbery of the Hylas,
The spring morning,
And similar mythological representations. His last important works were A Nymph and Cupid (1874) and A Bacchant. He died on June 8, 1877.