PortCities London

William Lionel Wyllie (1851-1931)
London artist

Known for

Engraved portrait of William Lionel Wyllie
View full size image Engraved portrait of William Lionel Wyllie. © NMM

His paintings, drawings, watercolours and etchings of the sea and ships. 

He was founder member of the Society for the Nautical Research whose primary aims were the restoration of the Victory and the foundation of the National Maritime Museum. 

He painted the Panorama of the Battle of Trafalgar in Portsmouth Dockyard which was unveiled by George V in 1930.

Port connection

Toil, glitter, grime and wealth on a flowing tide.
View full size image Toil, glitter, grime and wealth on a flowing tide. © NMM

Wyllie was born in London and knew the city, its river and port throughout his life. 

He painted, drew and etched many aspects of its life over a period of nearly sixty years - from around 1870 well into the 1920s. 

He owned and sailed Thames barges.  This helped to give him an intimate knowledge of the port, its people and its craft.  He even used a barge as his studio, moored in the Pool, from which he made studies. 

This is why his famous picture, Toil, glitter, grime and wealth on a flowing tide, painted in 1883, so convincingly conveys the bustle of shipping in the Pool, upon which the city's wealth depended. 

Interesting facts

He sometimes used a Thames barge as his studio. 

He painted studies of the moon. 

In 1869 Prince Jerome Napoleon witnessed Wyllie and his brothers rescue the crew of schooner in distress off the coast of northern France.

Life story

1851Born near Regents Park, London.
1866Enters the Royal Academy School, London.
1869Wins Turner Gold Medal for Landscape.
1883Paints 'Toil, grime and wealth on a flowing tide' (purchased by Chantrey Bequest, now in Tate Britain. Visits Egypt to make a studies of paintings of the recent bombardment of Alexandria.
1884With his family moves to a house near Chatham Dockyard.
1889Elected Associate of the Royal Academy of Arts.
1905Publishes his book on JMW Turner.
1906Moves to a house at the entrance to Portsmouth Dockyard.
1907Elected Royal Academician.
1929Starts work on the 'Panorama of the battle of Trafalgar', unveiled by George V in 1930.
1931Dies in London.