William Callow received encouragement from his parents in his pursuit of an artistic career and he was articled to Theodore Fielding whom he followed to Paris in 1829. He was fortunate to meet there the two great influences on his art, Richard Parkes Bonington and Thomas Shotter Boys. It was Boys who encouraged him to diversify from the production of lithographs and engravings and to take up watercolour painting. A feature of the style of both Bonington and Boys was the use of a broken wash to reveal underlying paper and previous ground washes. It was essentially a linear, calligraphic style which relied heavily on firm accurate drawing. Callow’s accuracy in achieving perspective by careful selection of the angle of view was phenomenal, and indeed superior to that of Boys. By 1833, when he set out on his own as an independent artist, he had also been influenced by Turner, whose work he initially knew through engraving. From Turner he adopted the habit of making rapid sketches in notebooks with small vignettes of detail, to be worked up into watercolours in the studio.
From the time of his triumph in 1834 at the Paris Salon, where he was acclaimed for his true colours and his accuracy of drawing – thus joining the pantheon of artists like Fielding, Constable and Bonington, who were to influence French art – he was never out of the public eye throughout his career, which was to last into the 20th century. The elements of his style, first worked out in Paris in the 1830s remained with him all his life.
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