William Blamire Young

William Blamire Young


William Blamire Young, known by his middle name, is best remembered courtesy of an often-quoted passage within the 1921 book The Art of Blamire Young. In this the author describes him as 'a young man of twenty-three years, six feet three inches high, aesthetic and virile, uniting the Cambridge manner with the Bohemian spirit - a picturesque and paradoxical personality'. Intellectual, art critic, author, playwright, poet, horticulturalist and wine connoisseur, Young was to also become the most accomplished and influential Australian watercolourist of his generation. Born on 9 August 1862 at Londesborough, Yorkshire, Young was the second son of Thomas Young and his wife Mary (nee Bowser). He received a formal education which included study at the University of Cambridge from 1881 and his love of art was encouraged during this time as a member of the Cambridge Fine Art Society. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree on graduation in 1884.

A career in the clergy had been planned for Young but rejecting his father's wishes he applied for a teaching position in Katoomba and departed London on 6 January 1885 aboard Chimborazo for a colonial adventure in New South Wales. He was never to see his father again.

After eight years at Katoomba College Young returned to England in 1893 and subsequently received instruction from the famed artist and academic Hubert von Herkomer in Bushey, Hertfordshire. It was there on 1 July 1895 he married Mabel Sawyer and during this period he worked in the field of Art Nouveau poster design. Young enrolled again at Cambridge for post-graduate study and in 1897 was awarded his Master of Arts degree.

Young resumed his relationship with Australia in 1896, on this occasion accompanied by his new bride. They took up residence in Melbourne and Young collaborated with Norman Lindsay, Lionel Lindsay and Harry Weston designing posters. He joined the Victorian Artists' Society and exhibited with it in 1901-1907 and 1912. These years were financially grim but a series of moderately successful exhibitions between 1910 and 1912 offered some relief for the family.

Late in 1912 Young accompanied by his wife and two daughters departed Melbourne. This extended trip saw him sketch and paint in the Canary Islands, Portugal, Spain and France before eventually settling in Sussex. The commencement of WWI then interfered with his painting career and as a man in his fifties he volunteered to serve as a firearms instructor in the British Army.

After the war he exhibited in London at the Royal Academy of Arts, Royal Society of British Artists, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, National Portrait Society, Fine Art Society and International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers. He also had pictures hung at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh, The Salon in Paris and Art Institute of Chicago.

Having tasted some international success Young returned to Melbourne in 1923 and lived out the remainder of his days widely regarded as one of Australia's greatest watercolourists. He died on 14 January 1935 at his home in Montrose and was buried in the local cemetery at Lilydale. He was survived by his wife Mabel and daughters Ida and Lalage and today is represented in the collections of every major public gallery in Australia.

Biography © Stephen Robertson Marshall. Reproduced with permission.