Home from the Brazils - refitting

(Updated, August 2018) A painting entitled 'Home from the Brazils - refitting', by Charles William Wyllie (1853-1923). Wyllie was a well-known marine artist, though his elder brother William Lionel Wyllie (1851-1931) was more celebrated and prolific. Both painted the same general class of maritime work though W.L. Wyllie did more modern naval subjects from the 1880s onwards. The painting shows a sailing ship being refitted, drawn up on a slipway. It appears to be a large two-masted topsail schooner. Such vessels continued to make long-distance trading voyages throughout the 19th century and well into the 20th, long after the arrival of steamships. Most wooden vessels were copper-sheathed by this time, as this one is, but it was certainly necessary for any going into tropical waters to prevent shipworm as well as make the lower hull easier to clean of weed and barnacle growth that affected sailing qualities. The partly weather-boarded building on the right bears the legend 'GILL / SHIPWRIGHTS' on the gable-end showing the scene is the yard of W.G. Gill & Sons on the River Medway in Kent. The yard was roughly on the Rochester and Chatham boundary, just west of the now long-vanished Chatham Central railway station. The view is downstream with the slipway shown being almost parallel to the river, the crane being on the end of a jetty, with the river out of sight to its left. Another recorded view of the yard by W.L. Wyllie shows some slight differences, including gabled dormers in the roof of the building on the right, and Charles may also have inserted or at least adjusted the buildings shown back left for pictorial reasons. They both knew the area well and from 1884 to 1906 W.L Wyllie lived nearby on the Medway and certainly knew the Gill family, who built at least one boat for him: it is likely that Charles did too, though there is no reason to suppose this painting had any other connection to them than providing the subject. The picture is signed 'Charles W. Wyllie', lower left. It was exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in 1883 and may previously have been shown under the title 'Refitting' at the Liverpool Autumn Exhibition of 1882 (no. 524) priced at £200. The Museum purchased it from the Royal Exchange Gallery, London, in 1990.

Object Details

ID: BHC4236
Collection: Fine art
Type: Painting
Display location: Not on display
Creator: Wyllie, Charles William
Date made: Late 19th century - Early 20th century; circa 1882 1881-1882 1881-82
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Frame: 1442 x 1178 x 76 mm;Overall: 30 kg;Painting: 1270 mm x 1016 mm

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