William Wyllie

William Lionel Wyllie was born on 6th July 1851 in Albany Street, NW London. Encouraged by both his father, William Morrison Wyllie, himself a genre painter, and his step brother artist Lionel Percy Smythe, he developed a keen interest in art from a young age. As a child William Wyllie spent many summers drawing and painting on the beaches in Northern France at the family’s second home, just north of Boulogne. Here he met Marian Amy Carew, 9 years his junior, who would later become his wife. The couple ended up having nine children during their 52 years of marriage.

All his life, his love for the sea and his knowledge of sailing (he was an expert competitive sailor and boat designer) undoubtedly influenced his art, giving it a strong focus and clear direction.

During his professional career W L Wyllie became one of the most important marine artists in British history. He won the Turner Gold Medal at the age of eighteen and later earned full membership of the Royal Academy, The Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, The Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, amongst other accolades.

In 1906 he moved to Tower House, Portsmouth, where he was instrumental in campaigning and fundraising to move HMS Victory into dry dock and organising her restoration. He painted a 42×12 feet Panorama depicting the Battle of Trafalgar, which still attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year and keeps funding the ongoing maintenance of the ship.

W L Wyllie died on 6 April 1931 and was buried with full naval honours. His coffin was rowed through Portsmouth harbour and laid to rest at Portchester castle alongside his daughter Eva, later joined also by his wife and youngest daughter Aileen.

We have a wide selection of Original etchings and watercolours also available – here.

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