Tree Study

WAG 7647


William Davis started as a portraitist and painter of still lifes but later came under the influence of the Liverpool landscape painter Robert Tonge (1823 - 1856), with whom he made a painting tour in Ireland in 1853. Davis had a reputation for preferring aspects of the landscape which some critics, including Ruskin, considered dreary and unworthy of painting. The small landscape pictures Davis began to paint from 1853 were popular with audiences and admired by the Pre-Raphaelite artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 1882) and Ford Madox Brown (1821 - 1893), who appreciated the down-to-earth character of the paintings. Davis was experimental in his use of paint and seemed indifferent towards what others thought of his working practices. He also refused to sell work to dealers, whom he regarded as parasites. Although the London Pre-Raphaelites were admirers, Davis suffered disappointment throughout his career and failed to make a living from his paintings. He became dependent upon the patronage of the Liverpool-based merchant and collector John Miller (about 1796 - 1876), who regularly bought his pictures. The wealthy George Rae (1817 - 1902) was also a collector of his work.