The son of an architect, Edward Poynter was born in Paris in 1836.
As an artist, Poynter was heavily influenced by the Neo-Classical ideas of Frederick Leighton (later Lord Leighton), whom he met in Italy in 1853. However, a man of diverse talents, Poynter was also an accomplished illustrator, medallist, designer of tiles and painter of wall decorations.
He spent some time in Paris, where he associated with artists including Whistler, Armstrong and Lamont. In Paris, he also met the author Daphne Du Maurier, who featured Poynter and his group of friends in her novel Trilby.
He exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1861 with the very successful painting, Israel in Egypt, but later in his career he turned to subjects which were more inspired by Greece and Rome, generally incorporating detailed and accurate studies of the human figure.
His success was so great that Poynter became a leading figure of the British art world. In his later life he became the Director of The National Gallery and he was also an honorary member of The Society of British Artists and The Royal Miniature Society. Sir Edward Poynter died in London in 1919.