"THE START OF THE DAY" BY WILLIAM SHAYER SR. (BRITISH, 1788-1879)
Executed in oil on canvas, signed lower left
Item # 012PGJ11S
An extremely fine painting by self-taught artist William Shayer, the Elder, the dramatic scene captures a busy coastal harbor where fishermen ready their boats for the day. Shayer's ability to work with light to dramatically emphasize characters and elements is clearly at work in this scene, the low-lying sun casting clear warm light across the water to highlight the young girl breaking from her chores to chat with an older boy. He is resting, perhaps having finished his duties as an early morning fisherman, as a basket nearby is filled with the day's catch. A terrier lies watching the two, translucent light scattered across his coat while half of his body lies hidden in opaque shadows of the nearby rock.
This work was acquired at Christies in New York during their auction of American Paintings from the Mrs. George Arden Collection on May 23rd of 1991, the original labels still retained verso. It was then acquired from the gallery of Frederick W. Thom, Ltd. in Toronto, Canada and was held in a private collection until now.
Housed in an early and quite fine giltwood composition frame, this is an exquisite acquisition - brilliant light, exquisite detail and a warm scene that truly convey Shayer's love of British life and countryside.
Born in Southampton, William Shayer Sr. started out painting rush-bottom chairs before leaving for Guildford where he set himself up as a coach-painter. His work was well-regarded and word soon spread regarding the quality of his coats of arms, leading to his commission to paint the funeral escutcheon of the 4th Earl of Richmond. Shayer continued to paint coats of arms and heraldic devices but in his free time he turned his attention to landscape paintings.
On a visit to Southampton to spend time with his family, Shayer received instruction from the seascape painter Jock Wilson (whom Shayer would soon surpass in terms of their respective ability to paint coastal and sea views). Shayer moved to Bladon Lodge in Shirley, near Southampton, an area renowned for its beautiful skies and rejected all overtures by his peers to return to London.
The self-taught artist would become beloved for the great breadth of his genre compositions. While the sea and the coast were always close to his heart, he painted all aspects of British life: gameskeepers, gypsies, shepherds, hawkers, townsfolk selling at markets or resting at country inns and farmers doing chores.
Shayer married Sarah Lewis Earle in 1810 and fathered William Shayer the Younger, Charles Waller Shayer and Henry Thring Shayer. He was admitted membership to the Society of British Artists in 1862 and showed 338 paintings at the Society exhibitions from 1825 to 1870. He also exhibited 6 works at London's Royal Academy and 82 paintings at the British Institution. (Source: Benezit)
In essence, William Shayer painted genre compositions featuring fishermen, gamekeepers, gypsies, shepherds, hawkers and the like. He ranks alongside John Frederick Herring and Thomas Sidney Cooper in the pantheon of 19th-century English landscape art.
Artist Listings & Bibliography:
- E. Benezit Dictionary of Artists, Vol. XII, Gründ, 2006, p. 1095-1097
- Christies, New York, 23 May 1991, lot 204, estimated $ 10,000-15,000, achieved $ 8,800 USD
- Frederick W. Thom Ltd, Toronto, Canada
Measurements: 29 1/8" H x 39 3/8" W [canvas]; 35 7/8" H x 46 5/8" W x 3" D [frame]
Relined. Scattered touchups visible under UV. Light craquelure throughout. Cleaned in the last thirty years, still remaining in excellent presentation-ready condition - old varnish may perhaps benefit from being cleaned at some point, but we prefer to hold off as long as possible. Early frame in overall good condition with minor breaks and blemishes.