WILLIAM LIONEL WYLLIE | A View Across the Thames
36 cms x 25 cms / 14" x 10"
Medium and atmosphere dovetail in magnificent fashion in this Wyllie watercolour of barges being unloaded at low tide on the South Bank. The work captures the now-lost feel of maritime industry in the capital as the shrouded silhouette of St Pauls oversees the boat maintenance at hand. Sublime and the mundane interact to great effect, in Old London one would routinely be able to see great baroque and neoclassical monuments juxtaposed against the rigours of daily working life.
This impression is furthered by the smoky receding perspective of the upper register, where the outlines of buildings jut out from the washed textures of the far bank, creating layered depth to the work. The sense of fog and smoke is only furthered by the use of a nearly monochromatic palate of dark greys. Impressionistic in parts, the work also delves into finer points of architectural detail, giving strong sense of how London would have felt a century ago, with frenetic moments of small- scale action set against a monumental unchanging backdrop. It is worth considering the importance of the chosen perspective in the work, as the viewer is situated in the place of the longshoremen looking up at the City and across the river, rather than looking down on them from the embankments, serving to further the onlooker’s identification with the workers.
- William Lionel Wyllie is regarded as one of Britains premier marine artists of the later Victorian and early twentieth-century era. Highly proficient as a painter in both oil and watercolour, he is known for highly atmospheric etchings of vessels, big and small, in the many harbours and waterways around the British Isles and beyond. Wyllie was educated at the Royal Academy School of Art and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and Royal Institute throughout his life.Wyllies paintings, watercolours and etchings can be found in numerous museums around the world, including the Tate, London and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich which holds a vast collection of this great artists work.
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