William Powell Frith, the son of domestic servants, was born in Alfield in 1819. After brief training in art at Saint Margaret's School, Dover, Frith attended the Henry Sass Academy in London. While a student Frith earned money by painting portraits.
In 1845 he was appointed an associate of the Royal Academy and was made a full member in 1853. Frith exhibited the first of this three great modern-life subjects, Life at the Seaside: Ramsgate Sands in 1854. This was followed by Derby Day (1858) and The Railway Station (1862). These paintings were very popular and Frith sold a large number of engravings of these works.
In 1875 Frith's painting Before Dinner in Boswell's Lodgings (1868) was sold for £4,567. At the time, it was the highest salesroom price paid for the work of a living artist. Frith continued to paint crowd scenes but in his later years his work was considered old-fashioned. William Powell Frith died in 1909.