William Lionel Wyllie was born on 6th July 1851 in Albany Street, NW London. His childhood was spent in North London, although most summers the family would spend at their second home in Northern France, temporarily escaping the smog of the big city.
His formal art studies took place in Central London, first at Heatherley’s School of Art in Newman Street, just off Oxford Street at the age of fourteen, and later, at The Royal Academy Schools, on Piccadilly. From his first exhibits at just seventeen years old, he exhibited at the RA for most of his life. From the early 1870s WL supplemented his professional art career with regular work for The weekly magazine “The Graphic”. This work in particular made an expert etcher and engraver.
After marrying Marion in 1879, the newlyweds first set up home in 1880 in London at Carlton Hill, St Johns Wood. Five years later, in 1885, when the fourth of their nine children was born, they finally left London for good for a larger home out of town on The Medway, still close to W L Wyllie’s favourite river Thames!
Throughout his life WL kept a strong connection with London by returning to familiar scenes in his art, most of them set in and around the Thames. The Wyllie family, including his brother and step-brother, would often be seen painting directly from the river, on board their beloved “Ladybird”, a yawl, built in Boulogne which served as a floating studio.
Ironically, it was during the preparations for his last offering to the Royal Academy that he suffered a heart attack, whilst staying with friends on Primrose Hill. He passed away in the early hours of Easter Monday 6 April 1931 in his beloved London before his family could reach him from his home in Portsmouth.