Edwin Longsden Long Biography
Long was not, apparently, a “natural”, and his early career was difficult. Long failed (twice) to get a studentship at the RA Schools and for a while returned to his native Bath as a portrait painter. Then, in 1857, Long took up with Phillip and was inevitably dragged off to the heat and colour of Spain. But Long’s Spanish paintings -- a mixture of the historical and the sentimental -- met with a lukewarm reception back in London. However they play in Granada, the doings of, say, Archbishop Ximines do not fascinate the average British gallery-goer.
At last, in 1875, following a visit to Cairo, Long achieved a breakthrough with ‘The Babylonian marriage market’, in which he finally found a subject of obvious appeal on which to deploy his carefully developed ability to fill a big painting with historical detail.
At this point, Long's career took off, and he acqured an ARA and the first of a series of showy studio houses. Nevertheless, Long continued to vary his subject-matter, experimenting with several facets of the ancient world, including Biblical and classical subjects. But, on this painter,the perfection of the Elgin marbles -- the ‘Phidian ideal’, and all that -- seem to have had a petrifying effect; many of his Greek ladies look doll-like. Long’s near-Eastern types -- whether in fact they are ethnographically accurate or not -- are far more animated: compare ‘ Glauke: pensive with, Then to her listening ear, both at the Russell-Cotes.
Long also continued to paint portraits, at suitably increased rates.
In 1887 he completed a series of twenty idealized figures ‘Daughters of our Empire’, comprising a sort of Miss World competition of the Imperial imagination. A quaint relic: except that ‘Miss Australia’ (a girl holding a sheep) was recently auctioned for over £35,000.