Robert Sargent Austin (b.1875; d.1973)

our-heritageRobert Sargent Austin was born in Leicester and studied at the School of Art, 1909-13, and at the Royal College of Art (RCA) under Frank Short. From 1915-1919 Austin served in the trenches, and from 1922-1925 lived in Rome, then taught at the RCA. Known as an etcher, engraver and watercolourist, in 1921 Austin was elected to the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, and was elected to the Royal Academy (RA) in 1949. Austin’s first real graphic work was in 1921, the Horse of Ostend ‘which bears a close resemblance to a similar work by the Dutch etching Pieter Dupont’. From 1924, line engraving took prominence over etching, ‘perhaps more suited to Austin’s patient and methodical temperament. His inspiration was clearly drawn from the Old Masters, sometimes having a distinctly German feel’. Women feature prominently in Robert Sargent Austin’s work, often, as in Before Mass, depicted from behind.Austin, trying to ignore the stress and turmoil of the changes for artists, returned to ‘old patterns of collector, patron and dealer’, held fast ‘to traditional, medieval modes of expression and subject matter. Austin was an official war artists in the Second World War, whose work, ‘in pen and ink and wash colours’ was posted on the Underground in the series ‘Our Heritage’. As a teacher, Austin was said to have been stern and uncompromising, ‘craftsmanship being key to his work and attitude, however much inspiration and passion may lie beneath the cool and exacting surface’. Works by Austin are held in numerous public and private collections, including the USA National Gallery of Art (NGA).

Information collated from:
McLean Arts & Books, ‘Art / Books by/about Robert Austin‘,¬†Accessed 21 September 2003; NCL, ‘R.S. Austin – Engraving‘, Accessed August 28 2003; Artfacts, ‘Art Information‘, Accessed August 28 2003; ‘Brighter Posters’,¬†Advertiser’s Weekly, April 8 1843, p.34. See also LTM Artwork and British Council collection.

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