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William Shayer the Elder, R.B.A. (British, 1787-1879)

'Fisherman's Children'


circa 1842


Oil painting on panel, signed lower left 'Wm. Shayer'

artist's pen & ink handwritten label verso reading 'No.11 - Fisherman's Children / Wm Shayer / Nursling, Southampton'

14 inches by 12 inches (35.6 cms x 30.5 cms)


William Joseph Shayer, Senior (Shayer the Elder) was born in Southampton in 1787 and lived in the town for most of his 92 years. He was son of the landlord of the Turk’s Head public house in Spring Gardens, and later the Horse and Jockey in East Street.

He was a self-taught artist, who began by painting decorations on rush-bottom chairs. He moved on to painting carriages in the town of Guildford, after which he started doing heraldic painting. Ultimately, he began painting oil on canvas and became skilled at portraying woodland scenes with gypsies, people and animals in front of country inns and farm houses, and beach scenes crowded with boats and fishermen.

He lived mainly in the south of England, in Shirley, Southampton, but painted throughout Hampshire and in a wooded district in the southwest part of Hampshire called the New Forest. Michael Hoy, a wealthy Southampton merchant, was one of his most enthusiastic patrons and bought many of Shayer's paintings of the area.

Shayer's work has a depth and brightness to it missing from the paintings of many of his contemporaries, due to his skillful application of glaze. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1820. He went on to exhibit 6 works at the Royal Academy, 82 works at the British Institution, 246 works at major London galleries and 338 at the Suffolk Street Gallery of the Society of British Artists.


Shayers works are on display at many museums & public collections, including: The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Tate Gallery, the Glasgow Art Gallery, The New York Metropolitan Museum of Art, Haworth Art Gallery, Lancashire, Arundel Castle, Barnsley, Barnstaple, Bideford, Blackpool, Bristol City Art Gallery, Burnley, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Cheltenham Art Gallery, Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery, Glasgow City Art Gallery, Hastings Museum, Huddersfield Art Gallery, Ferens Art Gallery, Leeds City Art Gallery, Leicestershire Art Gallery, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Guildhall Art Gallery, Manchester City Art Gallery, Laing Gallery, Nottingham Castle Museum, Perth Museum, Mappin Gallery, Sheffield, Southampton City Art Gallery & Museum, Sunderland Museum & Art Gallery, Walsall Museum & Art Gallery, Wolverhampton Central Art Gallery, and York City Art Gallery.


William Shayer Sr (1787-1879) 'Fisherman's Children' oil painting, c1842


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    416 666 6295

  • Additional information


    The Royal Society of British Artists, 17th Exhibition 1843, Suffolk Street, Pall Mall East, no.548 as 'Fisherman's Children'



    with Frederick W. Thom Limited, Toronto gallery label verso

    Estate of Dr. & Mrs. Robert W. Marshall, Toronto (Canada)

    Estate of W. A. Ross MacFadden, Toronto (Canada)



    Society of British Artists (1843) review: "Mr. W. Shayer has bestowed some beautiful work...his 'Fisherman's Children', no.548, is executed in a style that does infinite credit to the artist. The touch is both delicate and free, and very much reminds us of the early works of Wilkie. The character, too, in this picture is far superior to that in the two former. Mr. Shayer has other pictures, all of which will well repay a careful examination.", The Literary Gazette (1843) Society of British Artists review, p.309.

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