Born in 1858, this fine genre and portrait painter studied at the Slade in London. He also pursued an artistic education in Florence from 1880, in Paris between 1881 and 1883, and under J.P. Laurens. On his return to England he settled in his native Cornwall, first at Newlyn, already a centre for French cell plein-air painting, and later in Falmouth, where he bought a boat.
He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1879 and also at the Society of British Artists in Suffolk Street, the New Water-colour Society, the Grosvenor Gallery, the New Gallery and the New English Art Club, as well as at many other prestigious artistic venues of the 19th century.
He was made a Member of the New English Art Club in 1886, an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1900 and a Member of the Academy in 1914. Most of his works reflected love and knowledge of the sea. His first work to attract attention was the dramatic "All Hands to the Pump", which was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1889. His style, bold and realistic, was much admired for its feeling of sea and sunlight, and is well-suited to his scenes of rugged life on the Cornish coast.
He was also an industrious painter of male nudes, usually naked boys posed on sunlit beaches, and his many pictures and sketches of this type caused alarm at Victorian exhibitions. In turn, more cynical modern observers have dismissed Tukes work, although recent sales of his original paintings at auction have fetched remarkable prices.