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Born in Guernsey, the second of 11 children, Naftel initially established himself as a drawing master and was appointed Professor of Drawing at Elizabeth College in 1847, a post he retained until he moved to London in 1870. He travelled widely throughout the British Isles and Europe, including several trips to Scotland, as well as to Wales and Ireland, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. His early work was characterised by a rich application of bodycolour, which allowed him to capture the bright contrasts of colour found in the coastal subjects of Guernsey. Later, he was influenced by David Cox, whose work he became familiar with during a tour to North Wales in 1840. In 1856, he was elected an Associate of the Society of Painters in Watercolours, becoming a full member three years later. In 1862, several his watercolours were reproduced as a series of woodcut illustrations for D. T. Ansted and R.G. Latham’s The Channel Islands.