Thomas Walter Wilson worked successfully as both a landscape painter and a magazine illustrator during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His drawings appeared most regularly in The Graphic and The Illustrated London News.
Thomas Walter Wilson was born in London on 7 November 1851, the third son of the painter and illustrator, Thomas Harrington Wilson. He gave his places of education – in Who’s Who for 1908 – as ‘St Mark and Hollywood House, Chelsea’. He studied at the National Art Training School, South Kensington, from 1868, being declared a National Scholar in the following year, and going on to win a Gold Medal and several Silver Medals. The Science and Art Department, the government body that ran the training school, selected Wilson to go to Bayeux, in Normandy, on some form of special service.
He would also work in Belgium and Holland.
While living at 28 Beaufort Street, Chelsea, in 1870, Wilson began to exhibit landscapes at the Royal Society of British Artists and the Institute of Painters in Water Colours. From 1873 to 1876, he also showed at the Royal Academy of Arts (1873-76), the ROI, and in the provinces. He was elected an associate of the Institute in 1877 and a full member in 1879 (it becoming the Royal Institute in 1885), and a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1883. He continued to show at the RI until 1892.
From about 1880, Wilson developed a parallel career as a magazine illustrator. In that year, he began to work for The Graphic, a highly successful illustrated weekly newspaper. Initially, he worked up drawings sent in by the ‘Special Artist’, or visual journalist, Fred Villiers; but, as is instanced by the present drawing, he went on to receive his own assignments. From 1888 and through the 90s, he worked for The Illustrated London News, The Graphic’s more established rival, and also contributed to The English Illustrated Magazine, Good Words and The Sphere.