Attributed to William Shayer (British 1787-1879) “Sunday Morn” A family n their way to church. Oil on Canvas, apparently unsigned. Mounted in a later gilt wood frame. Sight (visible painting) measurements 62cm x 75cm (24.5” x 29.5”). Frame measurements: 81cm x 94cm (32” x 37”)
CONDITION: In good, clean, ready to hang condition. Lined. Some retouching, mainly at the top of the painting, visible under ultraviolet light.
Whilst the frame of this painting bears the name and date of William Shayer the Elder, we think a modicum of caution is merited. This is not because we think it might not be a Shayer, we are convinced it is. The question is, which Shayer? The nature of the forested scene and particularly the extended road/path through the forest are what lead us to plump for Shayer the elder but there are other member of the family to consider.
William Shayer the Elder was father to ten children, twice married, and four of his sons were also artists of the same genre, all painting very similar scenes. Often, any one or more of his sons would lend their hand to his and each others’ works. Thus, either in addition to, and possibly in place of, their father, elements of this piece may well contain the talents of any of these sons: William Joseph Sayer (aka William Shayer the Younger) 1811-1892; Charles Waller Shayer 1826-1914; Henry Thring Shayer 1825-1894; and the lesser known Edward Dasherwood Shayer 1821-1864. To compound matters further, William Shayer the Elder was also known to collaborate with his contemporary, Edward Charles Williams (1807-1881), adding people and animals to Williams’s landscapes.
William Shayer the Elder began his career in Southampton painting furniture, and moved on to Guildford where he was employed to paint coaches. He soon built up a reputation for his artistry with coats of arms, and was engaged to paint the Earl of Richmond’s funeral escutcheon. In his free time, Shayer began experimenting with landscapes - a number of which, then and later, feature scenes in Hampshire, the New Forest; and Devon. Whilst back visiting Southampton with his family, Shayer undertook learning from Jock Wilson (1774-1855), celebrated for his seascapes. Pupil soon outperformed master, and for the rest of his life William Shayer now produced the works with which he and the Shayer family have become associated:- genre compositions featuring gypsies, hawkers, fishermen, gamekeepers and shepherds.
William Shayer the elder is recorded as having worked out of 26 Grafton Street, Soho; many of his works exhibited in London. Between 1825-70, he was exhibited some 338 times at the Society of British Artists, where he was a member from 1862. Between 1827-62, 82 works were exhibited at the British Institution; and six works were shown at London’s Royal Academy between 1820-43. His paintings were also included in: the Glasgow Art Gallery; Leicester; Salford; Sunderland; Montreal; New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Tate: and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, where they can still be seen today.
William Shayer the Elder, elder of the Shayer family of artists, died in 1879 at Bladon Lodge, Southampton, leaving a legacy of nineteenth century art, and some ongoing mystery, for us to enjoy here in our own day.