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Etty was born in York and moved to London in 1805 to study at the Royal Academy schools. He was a pupil of Sir Thomas Lawrence in 1807-8 and travelled to Europe at the first opportunity after the Napoleonic Wars, to study the Old Masters, particularly Rubens and Titian, who were the key influences on his painting. Etty’s subject matter was exclusively the nude and at a time when such subjects were reserved for sculpture he was “the first British artist to paint the nude with both seriousness and consistency, combining visual pleasure with high moral purpose” (Tate Gallery Exhibition Catalogue, Exposed: The Victorian Nude 2001, p. 57).

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