William Lionel Wyllie was a marine and coastal painter, watercolourist, etcher, drypoint artist and writer. He was the son of Katherine Benham and the London genre painter William Morison Wyllie. His brother was the landscape and coastal painter Charles William Wyllie (b. 1859), and his step brother the landscape and rustic genre painter Lionel Percy Smythe (1839-1918). His son, Lt. Col. Harold Wyllie (b. 1880), was a marine painter, pencil artist, etcher and engraver.
Wyllie studied at Heatherley's and at the Royal Academy Schools where he was awarded the Turner Gold medal in 1869. He painted coastal, harbour and London dock scenes, as well as pictures of the British fleet. These became well known through engravings. Toil, Glitter, Grime and Wealth on a Flowing Tide (exh. R.A. 1883; Tate Gallery, London), which was well received by critics, and which shows a possible debt to JW's early images of the industrial Thames, such as Wapping (YMSM 35), was purchased by the Chantrey Bequest in 1883 and his The Battle of the Nile in 1899.
Wyllie was an active exhibitor, showing in London from 1868 at the Royal Academy, Royal Institute of Oil Painters, Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers, Grosvenor Gallery, New English Art Club, Society of British Artists, Dowdeswell Galleries, Fine Art Society. He was the marine painter to the Royal Victoria Yacht Club in Ryde. He was made a member of the Society of British Artists in 1875, a society of which JW was President from 1886 to 1888, and of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours in 1882. In 1887 he became a member of the New English Art Club, a group with which JW exhibited at their inaugural show in 1888. In 1889 he was elected an associate of the Royal Academy, becoming a full member in 1907. In 1903 he became a member of the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers.
Wyllie was among those who were invited to attend a dinner organised by W. C. Symons to congratulate JW on being made an Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Munich, a dinner held at the Criterion in Piccadilly on 1 May 1889 (#00631). However, JW had spoken slightly disparagingly of Wyllie in 1888, writing to Charles Deschamps that the works of Aubrey Hunt were 'far more artistically rare' than anything ever composed by Wyllie (#07923).
Wyllie, M. A., Holiday Drawings in France and Italy, exhibition catalogue, Fine Art Society, London, 1892; Wyllie, M. A., We Were One, London, 1935; Bénézit, E., Dictionnaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs, 8 vols, Paris, 1956-61; Wood, Christopher, Dictionary of Victorian Painters, Woodbridge, 1971; Johnson, J., and A. Gruetzner, Dictionary of British Artists 1880-1940, Woodbridge, 1980; Quarm, R., and J. Wyllie, W. L. Wyllie, Marine Artist, 1851-1931, London, 1981; McConkey, Kenneth, Memory and Desire: Painting in Britain and Ireland at the Turn of the Twentieth Century, London, 2002; Deuchar, Stephen, 'W. L. Wyllie', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, http://www.groveart.com (accessed 21 March 2003).