William Powell Frith was born in 1819 in Aldfield, a village in North Yorkshire. His father was the house steward at Studley Royal. However, he soon moved on to become a hotel manager in Harrogate. The young William’s artistic talent caught his father’s attention and it was he who encouraged the boy.
His personal life was happy, though secretive. Frith and his wife had 12 children whom he loved and spent time with, unlike many Victorian fathers. You can see this in “Many Happy Returns of the Day”, a picture of his daughter’s birthday party.
However, a mile down the road lived his mistress with 7 more children. Upon his wife’s death he married her and all became public- something which scandalised his children by his first marriage.
His mistress was often painted in his paintings.
He died in 1909 following an illness of 4 days and was cremated, as was his wish. He saw himself not as a great artist but as one who achieved success.