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Robert Sargent Austin RA PRWS PRE (1895-1973)

Robert Sargent Austin, RA PRWS PRE (1895-1973)

Robert Sargent Austin’s talent was first recognised publicly, as a precocious eight year old, when he successfully submitted work to the Royal Drawing Society in his hometown of Leicester. His friends would later say that art became to him as essential as breathing, and this early success marked the beginning of a daily drive to draw, paint and etch that would mould him into the artistic force that he became.

Natural talent led to his enrolment at the Leicester Municipal School of Art in 1909, from where he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in 1914. In London, serious, patient, comprehensive study of life drawing was the first discipline taught and can be singled out as the experience that most influenced his uncompromising attitude to learning and practising art. The First World War interrupted his progress; he served as a gunner in the Royal Artillery from 1915-1919, however the delay meant that he became a pupil of the famous etcher, Sir Frank Short, when he resumed his studies.

Robert Sargent Austin’s career was notable for the ease with which he perfected different artistic techniques, and his etchings under Sir Frank Short were so proficient that he won a scholarship to the British School in Rome in 1921. This was an unrivalled opportunity to be immersed in Italian artistic culture and if his methodology was formed at the Royal College of Art, then his style was most influenced by this period of discovery.

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