The Upper Pool of London, River Thames
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fine art painting
fine art painting
fine art painting
fine art painting
fine art painting
fine art painting
fine art painting
fine art painting

Charles William Wyllie

English ( b.1853 - d.1923 )

The Upper Pool of London, River Thames

  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower left

Image size 17.3 inches x 31.5 inches ( 44cm x 80cm )
Frame size 26 inches x 40.2 inches ( 66cm x 102cm )


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Available for sale from Big Sky Fine Art in the English county of Dorset, this original oil painting by Charles William Wyllie dates from the early 1880s. The painting is presented and supplied in its original frame (which is shown in these photographs).
The painted surface and the frame have benefitted from cleaning, restoration and conservation, which was performed on our instruction, supervision and approval.
The painted canvas has been lined previously in the last 40 years to provide support generally and specifically to a repair in the canvas in the upper right quarter running vertically for 5cm (2 inches) in the area at the top of the mast of the furthest vessel on the left. When we acquired the painting, the damage was well repaired and stable but was certainly visible. Our restoration technique has made the repair invisible and returned the painting to its former glory for the present day and for the future.
The painting is signed lower left.
Provenance: Previously with David Messum Fine Art, 8 Cork Street, London W1X 1PB.

Charles Wyllie was a well-known illustrator and artist of landscapes, marine and coastal scenes. He was born in London on 18 February 1859, into an artistic family. His mother was a singer and his father, William Morison Wyllie, was a genre painter of some means and standing. His elder brother, William Wyllie, was more celebrated and prolific as an artist, though in his youth it was Charles who showed the more precocious talent. The brothers both painted the same general genre of maritime work and maritime scenes. Though it was the elder brother that came to specialise in marine vessels, particularly modern naval subjects it has been said that Charles’s works had a more pleasing sense of colour. During the 1870s the brothers spent many happy hours roaming, sketching and sailing together. This talented family was rather bohemian and spent their summers at Wimereux on the north coast of France and the rest of the year in their home in London.

Charles, like his brother, received no formal schooling but showed considerable talents in reading, writing and music and was taught to sing by his mother. He also became an expert swimmer like his father and the men of the household gained something of a reputation for saving people from coastal wrecks. Charles completed his education studying at Leigh’s School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools.

Charles Wyllie first had one of his works exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1872, when he was only 13 years old. Five years later his painting ‘Digging for Bait’ was bought for the Chantry Bequest. Over his lifetime he exhibited some 141 works, including 32 at the Royal Academy, at Suffolk Street, the New Watercolour Society, the Grosvenor Gallery and the New Gallery, London. He was awarded a bronze medal in 1889. He was elected RBA in 1886 and a member of the Royal Institute of Oil Painters in 1888.

During the First World War Charles Wylie served as a naval camouflage expert with the rank of lieutenant R.N.V.R. He was married to Marian Noyes and they had two sons. He lived and worked for most of his life at St John’s Wood in London, where he died on 28 July 1923.

Today he is represented by works in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich and the Tate Galley. His best works are those depicting the Channel coast, the Thames and Venice.

© Big Sky Fine Art

This original oil on canvas work depicts a large commercial steam vessel surrounded by a number of smaller open barges on the River Thames in the Upper Pool of London. There are around a dozen men on the various barges, dressed in working clothes. The steam vessel is on the north bank of the River Thames heading downstream to the east. The wharf is probably near Custom House or Old Billingsgate, hence we can see the Tower of London on the left further downstream. On the opposite south bank of the Thames is Southwark approximately where City Hall is now located, close to The Shard. The absence of Tower Bridge in the view allows us to date the painting as this was built in 1886 to 1894 and would be very prominent in the downstream eastern view.
The sky is pale blue with high white clouds and a little breeze is enough to cause the Red Ensign on the main vessel to flutter. The overall scene is of everyday activity in this working port in the middle of London over a century ago.