William Lionel (WL) Wyllie (1851 – 1931) and his eldest son Harold (1880 – 1973) were both internationally renowned marine artists. For the last part of their lives they lived in Portsmouth, home of the British Navy.
Harold inherited the love of the sea from his father, particularly the development of sailing ships in maritime history (for which he became a world expert). WL was a fervent competitive sailor until well into his seventies and designed and built a number of sailing vessels throughout his life.
William and Harold were masters at etching and engraving techniques although they also produced many splendid watercolours and oils. They produced numerous engravings during their time working for The Weekly News publication The Graphic for years. The etchings, especially those produced by WL, were extremely popular and are still in high demand.
They were both active during the First World War: WL mainly through accompanying the navy on many travels, recording events of The Great War, whilst Harold served as a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps during that time. Harold achieved the same rank in all three services: Lieutenant Colonel in The Army, Lieutenant Commander in The Royal Navy and Wing Commander in The Royal Airforce. In 1919 Harold was awarded an OBE for his services to the nation. W L Wyllie’s close association with the navy was reflected in a full naval burial in April 1931, an exceptional honour for someone who was never fully enlisted in The Royal Navy.
Both father and son were heavily involved in the project of moving HMS Victory into dry dock in 1922 and the subsequent restoration of the ship through their membership of The Society of Nautical Research. Harold designed the re-rigging of the ship and WL, with help of his youngest daughter Aileen, painted a 42 foot panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar towards the end of his life, which is still raising funds till this day for the continued maintenance needed to keep the ship in good condition.