The Victorian genre painting was a move towards illustrating everyday life, often featuring figures without specific identity or story. This change of fashion away from the previous portrait and landscape styles gave artists the ability to show all classes in their surroundings with the lives of the working people, in particular, being popular.
William Edward Millner is Lincolnshire’s Victorian genre artist. Born in Gainsborough in 1849, the son of a local teacher and artist, Millner was to live and work in the county until his death in 1895. With his life falling directly within the Victorian era his artistic work shows a concentration of influences from both his surroundings and the leading artists of the genre. This talent was recognised within his lifetime as his pictures were shown several times at the Royal Academy and since, with his works being held by leading public art galleries and a significant collection housed at Gainsborough Old Hall Museum.
Typical of Millner’s work, this masterpiece shows country figures, of the rustic labourer type, in an idyllic seaside setting. It is beautifully framed in an antique filigree frame, and features a metal plate towards the centre showing the artist’s initials. ‘As The Sun Went Down’ demonstrates a softer, looser style, and its quiet evocation of a working day drawing to a close, has a greater affiliation with the progressive school of social realism that flourished during the 1880’s