William Wyld (1806 – 1889)
The Coffee Shop
Oil on Canvas
16 x 12.5 in (40 x 31 cm)
William Wyld was born into a family that produced rich merchants for several generations. He showed amazing talent for drawing from an early age. When William was six he inherited his uncle’s drawing materials. His family connections allowed him to be made secretary to the British Consulate in Calais and he served under Lord Granville. The diplomatic life was not a future however that interested him and he joined forces with one of his friends Johan Lewis Brown, who was active in commerce and they worked as Wine Merchants exporting champagne from Epernay to England. Wyld spent his spare time drawing and painting with his friend and travelling from Dieppe to Rouen painting French genre scenes. In Rouen he met Horace Vernet, at the height of his fame, and who was to become an important influence on his work. Wyld worked for 6 years as a champagne merchant from 1827 – 1833, making the most of his job opportunities to meet the local aristocracy and to become a well-versed viticulturist. He always wished to become a painter but delayed setting out on that course to allow his younger brother to succeed him in the wine business. With his friend, the Baron of Vialer, he set out for Algiers. The Baron fell in love with the country and bought a house there, where William Wyld stayed for a period of 6 months, drawing and painting local scenes. Delacroix and Eugene Isabey were also working in Algeria, which inspired William Wyld. He was about to leave the country when he heard that Horace Vernet was on board a French warship, which was anchored in the Bay of Algiers en route to Rome, to take up an appointment as Director of the Academy of France. The two men had not met for 6 years but Vernet welcomed him on board. He never doubted Wyld’s talent as a painter and persuaded him to come to Rome with him and promised to help him in his artistic ambitions.
Arriving in Rome, Wyld received several commissions for Orientalist paintings from Vernet’s entourage, including the sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen whose portrait Vernet had painted several years before. The artistic legacy of Italy impressed Wyld and he decided to make a tour of the whole of Italy with his friend Emile-Audbert Lessone. He then moved to Paris to set up a studio. He started to receive many commissions for Orientalist paintings and Venetian scenes. William Wyld won a gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1839. He fell in love with Venice and continued to paint the city for the rest of his artistic career. Thanks to Vernet he mingled in the best artistic circles and made many friends including Ary Scheffer and painter Paul Delaroache. Another trip followed to Algeria and Egypt in 1844. After the French revolution of 1848 he returned to London and became a member of the New Society of Painters in Watercolours and had major success with the Industrialists of Manchester. Queen Victoria was becoming an admirer of his work and commissioned him to paint a number of paintings for her, which remain in the royal collection to this day. He stayed at the royal residence of Balmoral Castle in Scotland to paint and draw the surrounding countryside. He was invited to join Victoria on a royal visit to France in 1855, the first visit by a British head of state since 1520. He participated in the 1855 Exposition des Arts at the request of the Comte Emilien de Nieuwerkerke, who was effectively the French arts minister, on which occasion he was presented with the Legion d’Honneur. He remained actively painting in his Paris home until his death in 1889.
William Wyld’s works are hanging in the Museums of Carnavalet, Paris; Victoria and Albert, London; Nuremberg; San Francisco, USA; Birkenhead; Liverpool; Windsor Castle; Sheffield and the Museum des Jacobins at Morlaix.
Biographies; Gerald M. Ackerman, Les Orientalistes of English School.
P.G. Hamerton ; Sketches in Italy by William Wyld, Portfolio Vol III
Marcia Pointon ; The Bonington Circle, Sussex 1985
Nablia Oulebrir ; Les usages du patrimoine, Algeria 2004.