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Woodville was primarily a journalistic war artist in the late 19th century and was renowned for his attention to detail. He also painted other scenes for The Illustrated London News.
He was destined to be a very talented artist due to his lineage. His father was also a war painter and the author of a famous picture entitled: "The Game of Chess", and his mother was extremely talented in portraiture. His father died before he was born.
Woodville was English by birth. He descended from a noble family-the Lancashire de Wyndevilles, from which King Edward IV selected his queen, and his great-grandfather on his mother's side was Charles Carroll of Carrolton-one of the signors of the Declaration of Independence. This heritage helped him to get started as a painter, lacking in the normal problems of being an artist, he came from an affluent background and therefore didn't struggle like many young artists did, (and still do).
Although he was surrounded by war-like activity as a child in St.Petersburg, Woodville was not inspired by this alone. He was largely influenced by the work of Wilhelm Kamphaussen - Court Painter for William I - to whom he was drawn whilst under the tuition of E. Von Gebbardt - A religious painter.
Woodville was brought up in St. Petersburg, lived in Paris then finally settled in London in 1875, where he began working for the Illustrated London News. He was a war painter and travelled to the Turkish war in 1878 and to the Egyptian war in 1882. He also worked in Albania and the Balkans. He collected various firearms and weapons on these excursions, which he kept for visual reference in his studio.
He painted in oils more often in the 1880's and began working only in colour in 1897 this was perhaps due to the fact that he surrounded himself with bright, vibrant colours in his studio in Queen's Gate, London. His work was always completed to a high standard and was extremely accurate although somewhat glamorous. In this he was compared with Meissonnier - another war painter who worked for The Illustrated London News.
R. Caton Woodville's work was primarily completed from memory due to the fact that his subjects were generally involved in quick action. Despite this, however, he was accurate to the last detail - no buttons or straps were missing in his paintings. He was particularly talented at describing horses in action although the people in his paintings are also expressive but not to the same degree. It has been written that he lacked in depicting the realities of war, however, he has been known to be quite good at representing this area. His paintings are a pictorial history of the brave soldiers of the British Nation.