William Lionel Wyllie RA

The Richard Martin Gallery have been buying and selling works by W.L. Wyllie since we opened in 1980. We only sell original watercolours and signed etchings. Wyllie was keenly involved in the entire printing process and all of the original etchings that we offer have been printed from the copper plates, each etched and engraved by Wyllie and then signed by him in pencil. Wyllie was meticulous in destroying the copper plates after each modest print run was completed, ensuring that his signed etchings remain scarce and collectable. 

W.L. Wyllie (1851-1931) is regarded as one of Britain's premier marine artists of the later Victorian and early 20th century era. Highly proficient as a painter in both oil and watercolour, he is also known for highly atmospheric etchings of vessels, big and small, in the many harbours and waterways around the British Isles and sometimes beyond. He was an enthusiastic student of the sea and a keen sailor, a passion reflected in the accuracy with which he depicted the various vessels in his work, be they long retired men-of-war from the age of Nelson, Thames barges, J-class yachts, or the warships of Jellicoe's Grand Fleet. Wyllie exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and Royal Institute throughout his life.

His etchings display a deftness of touch and a rare ability to capture brilliantly the flickering of light upon moving water. He worked the copper plates himself and utilised the techniques of the master etcher - creating deeply-bitten blacks, deploying drypoint to add spontaneity and aquatint to provide tone.

Wyllie moved to Tower House at the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour in 1906. His son John remembers him painting barefoot in the studio during a storm, his trousers rolled-up and the waves washing green against the windows. He remained a fit and active man and was a founder member of both the Portsmouth Sailing Club and 1st Portsmouth Sea Scouts.

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