Edward Poynter trained in Rome and Paris before joining the Royal Academy as an Associate in 1869. His brother was Burne-Jones was a close friend of Lord Leighton and looked to Alma-Tademafor inspiration on many of his works. He was also greatly influenced by Michelangelo and subjects on ancient history. Poynter's father was an architect, which also contributed to his architectural settings.
The women in Poynter's paintings have usually have a statuesque quality to their poses. Their skin often has the luminosity of marble. He believed as Leighton did, that the subject matter in paintings should be completely imaginary. He clung strongly to Victorian artistic ideals long after it was seen as fashionable.
He became president of the Royal Academy in 1896. It was a dark time for the academy their long time president, Leighton had recently died. He was replaced by Millais, another favorite, who died the year he was elected president. Poynter tried to make the best of the dismal atmosphere and under the circumstances was a administrative success.
During his 22 years as president of the Royal Academy, he spent 8 of those years simultaneously serving as the director for the National Portrait Gallery.