English painter and . She studied in London at the Putney Art School for two years (c.
1883) and at the Westminster School of Art and the Slade School of Fine Art (1892–4). On a visit to Spain in 1884 she was greatly impressed by Velázquez's blend of and myth, and in Paris she identified particularly with Manet and with the . In 1898 she settled in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, London, and established there a studio that she maintained for the rest of her life. She also painted regularly at Robin Hood's Bay, N. Yorks. The sombre of her early flower compositions and figures in interiors gave way to brighter, richer interpretations derived from Impressionism. In 1900 she was elected the first woman member of the . Her works displayed a vibrancy of colour and spontaneity of without any apparent interest in the scientific aspects of Impressionist colour theory. Particularly successful are her precise and uncluttered and her of women, which often had a dominant key of brilliant colour. Much the same fullness of spirit pervades her flower-pieces. A series of large, decorative figure combined themes with spiritual concerns; typical of these are the Zone of Hate
(1914–15) and the Zone of Love
(1930–32; both London, Tate). She also produced sculptures of these themes, which were decorative in approach and inspired by her vision of a golden age. She was elected ARA in 1940 and appointed DBE in 1943.
Ethel Walker, Frances Hodgkins, Gwen John: A Memorial Exhibition (exh. cat., foreword by J. Rothenstein and Philip James; London, Tate, 1952)
Distinguished British Paintings, 1875–1950: An Accent on Ethel Walker (exh. cat., London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, 1974)
Dame Ethel Walker (exh. cat., London, Blond F.A., 1979)