Born in 1816 to the son of a London gunsmith, Egg enrolled in Henry Sass’s Academy around 1834 and entered the Royal Academy Schools in 1836. Egg’s earliest pictures included portraits, costume pieces, subjects from Shakespeare and others. A few of his early pictures were popular among critics but in general his early works were criticised.
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Over the years Egg established himself and even began to patronise younger artists and the Pre-Raphaelites. Egg’s famous triptych, exhibited in the Academy in 1858, and now known as Past and Present demonstrated Egg’s concern with moralising serial narrative and with contemporary social issues. He frequently travelled to the south of England and to the Mediterranean for his asthma, to which he ultimately succumbed in 1863.