Edward Poynter was born the son of the architect Ambrose Poynter. He trained in Italy where he was heavily influenced by the work of Michelangelo. He specialised in historical scenes executed with great precision. Along with contemporaries such as Frederic Leighton and Lawrence Alma-Tadema he was part of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. One of his most popular works was ‘Libra and Her Sparrow’.
Despite his great popularity he concentrated on his administrative work in the later part of his career being appointed the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at University College, London in 1871 where he remained for four years. He also worked as Director of the National Gallery (1894-1904) and President of the Royal Academy (1896-1918).