Ethel Walker was a painter and sculptor born in Edinburgh. Although she displayed artistic talent from a young age, it was only after seeing a private collection of Asian art that she decided to become an artist. Consequently, Chinese painting and Taoist philosophy influenced much of her work. She initially attended the Ridley School of Art in London, followed by Putney School of Art and Westminster School of Art, where she was influenced by the teacher Frederick Brown. When he was offered a position at the Slade School of Fine Art around 1893, she followed him there and studied there for a further two years. Her early paintings which mainly depict figures in interiors, such as her first major success, the painting Angela, were heavily influenced by her time at the Slade and the New English Art Club, to which she was elected in 1900, the first woman to do so. She exhibited with the N.E.A.C. for many years as well as regularly exhibiting in group and solo shows with galleries such as the Royal Academy, which she became an associate of in 1940, the Royal Society of British Artists, the Society of Women Artists and the London Group. She was awarded a CBE IN 1938 and a DBE five years later.
Walker was widely regarded as one of the finest women painters in Britain. She painted landscapes, seascapes, mythical subjects and flowers but she is best known for her portraits of the female form. These were often painted with one dominant key of brilliant colour. The influence of Velasquez and the Impressionists is also evident in the free and expressive style utilised in much of her work. She is represented in, amongst others, the Tate, Courtauld and National Portrait Gallery collections.