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 Walter Dexter  (1876 - 1958)

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Lived/Active: England      Known for: painting, commercial art, architecture

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Walter Dexter (1876 – 1958)

Walter Dexter was born in Wellingborough and brought up in King's Lynn. As a boy he was taught to paint by Henry Baines, the well-known local artist. From 1892 he trained at Birmingham School of Art.

On completing college, Dexter traveled in Europe, studying and painting. He was fascinated by the Medieval architecture and the ‘Old Masters’ of the Dutch and Flemish schools. When later asked how he managed to make the surface of his paintings so smooth, he would answer “but that is how the Old Masters worked”.

During this period Dexter wrote articles for British newspapers, which he sent back from his travels in Europe. He wrote over 400 press articles on nature, art, architecture and also some verse.

In 1904 Dexter finished two paintings of A Workshop. On the strength of these he became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists. He was employed as an art master from 1915, firstly at Bolton Grammar School and later at King Edward VII Grammar School in Lynn. He also worked as a commercial artist producing artistic and advertising material for local schools, societies, the King’s Lynn Docks, and the Midland and Great Northern Railway.

Dexter and his wife, Helen (nee Chadwick), lived at East Winch. He became a local Council member, lectured widely on art and architecture, and worked for the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. Helen died in 1948 and in 1955 Dexter moved to the former Valiant Sailor public house in Nelson Street, Lynn. He continued to paint and sold his work to local patrons, including the Queen Mother. He died aged 82 in 1958 after being struck by a motorcycle in the Saturday Market Place. He is buried at East Winch.

In the early 20th century Dexter concentrated more on Norfolk’s landscape and less on the pre-Raphaelite traditions of his early influences. In 1907 W.A. Dutt’s book Some Literary Associations of East Anglia, was illustrated with 16 colour plates by Dexter.

Dexter’s 1928 painting King’s Lynn, Capital of the Fen Country became his first work to be exhibited at the Royal Academy. Lynn from the South-West, as this view became known, was painted many times by Dexter. He worked hard on recreating detail, often in physically uncomfortable conditions. His sister remembered cold, wet months spent on a converted fishing boat in the River Nar whilst Dexter worked on paintings of Lynn from the river.

Dexter’s lifelong love of the River Great Ouse with its wildlife and ships, originated in his childhood. In 1941 he reminisced in the Eastern Evening News, “I remember as a boy of eight spending long summer days with my grandfather on the ‘seabank’, one of the great embankments between which the Ouse leaving Lynn Harbour makes its way to Lynn Deeps and so on to the North Sea. The sun shone, the tide rose or fell; I watched the terns or the sand-martins which had their homes in the low, sandy cliff where the bank had fallen away, and I learned to distinguish one vessel from another. With the tide the fishing boats would come racing up the Cut – Lynn had a considerable fleet in those days.”

Walter Dexter remains one of the best-loved King’s Lynn artist’s for his ability to capture the breadth and clarity of East Anglia’s landscapes, and his fine eye for detail in historic townscapes.

Source: Courtesy of the Lynn Museum, Norfolk, England

Submitted by M.D. Silverbrooke.


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