William Powell Frith's father wanted him to become a great artist. Frith began as a traveling portrait painter. In the mid 1850s he decided to become a "chronicler of modern life," (Bindman 91). For Frith, this meant doing panoramic paintings of large groups of people.
His most famous painting, Derby Day, includes individualized portraits, humor, and social commentary. These large paintings were full of minute details that pulled the viewer closer and closer until they could feel that they were in the painting.
Frith became extremely famous with his large genre paintings. So famous, that the Royal Academy had to put protective barriers in front of his paintings so they would not be injured by the crowds flocking to see them.
Primary sources: The Pre-Raphaelites by Sandra Forty, Barnes and Noble Books, 1997, pg 21
The Thames and Hudson Encyclopedia of British Art, General Editor David Bindman,Thames and Hudson, 1985, pg. 91