Maritime Art

Old Waterloo Bridge (undated)

By William Lionel Wyllie (1851-1931)

Wyllie was born a Londoner and spent much of his time in his twenties on a Thames sailing barge he had converted into a studio. A thorough seaman as well as a Londoner he captures in this image the industrial Thames and London’s maritime life with clever use of light and shadow.

The etching is inscribed ‘Old Waterloo Bridge’ but Wyllie never lived to see the ‘new’ Waterloo Bridge, which was built between 1936-1942. The inscription, therefore, was certainly added after Wyllie’s death in 1931.

In 1906 Wyllie moved away from London and settled in Portsmouth, in a large and rambling house at the very entrance to Portsmouth Harbour which is still there today, complete with a blue plaque commemorating Wyllie’s residence. In his time at Portsmouth, Wyllie became heavily involved in the growing interest surrounding the preservation of HMS Victory and was responsible for finding HMS Victory’s topsail flown at the battle of Trafalgar, now a key artefact in the collections of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the preservation of which can be read about here.

The old Waterloo Bridge was opened in 1817. A popular subject for artists, it was painted by both Claude Monet and John Constable. It was demolished once significant structural problems were identified in the 1920s. Granite stones from the old bridge were sent abroad to strengthen links with foreign British territories. Two survive in the Commonwealth Avenue Bridge in Canberra, Australia.

For more information on Wyllie, his art and his techniques, read this important 1985 Mariner’s Mirror article.

Maritime Art Archive

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