Completed British 19th C, except portraits, Maritime Subjects, Yorkshire and the Humber: Artists and Subjects 58 Does this painting by Georges William Thornley depict a view of Scarborough Bay?

Seascape - Fishing Boats
Topic: Subject or sitter

As the title of this work does not have any geographical association, may I suggest that this is a scene in Scarborough Bay? In the distance can be seen the castle with its wall running along and down the promontory. Below the castle can be seen the white, four-storey lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour. Can anybody else confirm Scarborough as the location?

Harris Museum & Art Gallery comments: 'We are not aware of the location but a volunteer is keen to look at what information we have and will reply as soon as possible. In the meantime we welcome any further comments about the painting.'

Cliff Thornton, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

Edward Stone,

This painting is now listed as being painted by William Anslow Thornbery (1847–1907) or Charles Thornely (1832/3–1918). It is now titled ‘Fishing Boats off Scarborough with the Castle and Lighthouse in the Distance’.

These amends will appear on the Art UK website in due course.

If anyone has any new information about this painting or artist, please propose a new discussion by following the Art Detective link on the artwork page on Art UK.

57 comments

Rick Smallman,

If memory serves the castle was a lot further to the left, as you look at the picture, and the shape of the hill is too high. regards

Shaun Everett,

Those vessels could easily be herring fishing, and Scarborough had a healthy herring fishing industry up till the 1950s. However, the 'lighthouse' and 'castle' may not be either. Artistic licence I believe.

Martin Hopkinson,

Compare Robert Ernest Rowe's Castle Rock, Scarborough [Scarborough Art Gallery] for the position of the lighthouse in relation to the castle.., and Sheffield Museums' J B Pyne of Scarborough. It seems likely that Cliff Thornton is correct

Cliff Thornton,

Please could somebody at The Harris Museum and Art Gallery have a look at this painting. There appears to be a white letter on the hull of the fishing smack, this might indicate its home port. Alternatively it might be just one of the seabirds in flight!

Harris Museum & Art Gallery,

Thanks Cliff. One of our volunteers is going to have a look at the painting, and see what information we have. We will get back to you as soon as we can.

Osmund Bullock,

I don't think the white splodge is a letter, Cliff. I've finally figured out that the slightly higher-res image that used to appear on the Your Paintings version of an Art Detective image is still there on the new Art UK website**, but no longer so obviously (unless it's my browser settings); and whatever the white thing is on the smack's bow (possibly just a lost chip of paint), I'm pretty sure it's not something written there.

But this is now slightly academic, as I've found an even closer analogue than the R.E. Rowe Castle Rock picture Martin spotted, and with less shipping clutter. It's a view taken from almost exactly the same angle, albeit a bit closer in, and fully confirms your Scarborough suggestion (to my satisfaction, at least) - the dark breakwaters of the Old Harbour visible in our picture at the bottom of the cliff can now be understood much better. The unusual viewpoint - out to sea, and low down - rather confused the issue; in fact there is very little artistic licence taken with either the position of the castle's Great Tower or the cliff's height, though Thornley's detail of the buildings is obviously sketchy.

It's an illustration in this (American) 1882 book, 'England, Picturesque and Descriptive...': https://archive.org/stream/england00cookuoft#page/308/mode/2up/search/scarborough . The print is mounted sideways, however, so I'm attaching a rotated image to make things simpler.

[**Right-click on the small image and "open image in new tab" - or save and open later]

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Osmund Bullock,

Just to clarify, the "Right-click on the small image..." instructions at the end of my last post are the way to view in your browser a full(er)-sized image of a picture you've opened on Art UK. Why this has been changed from the previous, much simpler system is a mystery - unless, as I say, it's an issue with my browser settings.

Michael Westcott,

I have not been to Scarborough but the view is not unlike the various paintings of same by J M W Turner: see google: Turner+scarborough (images).
Many of Turners paintings include more than a bit of artistic licence for the sake of composition. There is possibly a faint image of the church to the left of the tower.

Charles Matthews,

I have a more general question about the Art UK paintings currently under Georges William Thornley. There is another William Thornley, who is rather more mysterious and used multiple signatures. But this other one did do pictures of Scarborough Bay:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Anslow_Thornley_-_Fishing_boats_making_for_harbour,_Scarborough.jpg

is one example. There are a couple more on the same site. The upper image on this page

http://sutcliffegalleries.com/william-thornley-3/

is again Scarborough. One could have a discussion about the style, naturally.

Georges William Thornley, on the other hand, was a French artist and mostly known as a lithographer. In this one from the Channel Coast the clouds do seem to match:

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Thorney,_paysage_de_la_Manche.JPG

Curious. Both painted scenes on the Medway, for example. If there is a family connection, it is not in the sources I have tried.

Oliver Perry,

The undoubted pictures by Georges-William Thornley in French museums do seem rather difficult to reconcile with the ones attributed to him in British collections.
http://www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/joconde_fr

(I suspect the dramatic sky in the wikimedia file is due to bad flash photography, rather than a dramatic sky in the original)

With thanks to all to have contributed information and comparisons regarding the setting of this scene, I think we can now agree with Cliff Thornton's suggestion of Scarborough. An appropriate title would be along the lines of 'Fishing Boats off Scarborough with the Castle and Lighthouse in the Distance'.

However, the discussion has unexpectedly raised the intriguing question of who exactly painted the picture. Picking up Oliver Perry's comment, there does not seem to be any certain connection with the French-born Georges-William Thornley, known mainly as a printmaker. And, to take in Charles Matthews’s query, it seems far more likely that all the British seascapes certainly by Thornly or Thornley are actually by one artist, Charles Thornely, who under that name exhibited 205 seascapes at the RA, BI, Society of British Artists (Royal from 1887) and elsewhere between 1859 and 1898, submitting them from London and other English addresses. Denys Brook-Hart writes at length (in ‘British 19th Century Marine Painting’, 1974) about the mystery surrounding his name: ‘His normal signature is Thornely with the ‘T’ crossed through the ‘H’… However he sometimes signed W.A. Thornbery, Thornberry or Thornbury, and some authentic examples have been found signed Thornery. Occasionally he seems to have used the name ‘William’ instead of ‘Charles’. …The…cataloguers of pictures … use all these names without much distinction, and often call the artist ‘Hubert Thornely’ because they have been misled by the ‘T’ through the ‘H’ signature.’ Brook-Hart concludes that the artist’s family name was Thornbery, but that the name he used most frequently for his paintings was Thornely.

I suggest, for example, that the style of this ‘St Helier Harbour’ given to Charles Thorneley [sic] is not incompatible with the newly identified Scarborough scene:
http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/st-helier-harbour-with-boats-and-people-137463

Oliver Perry,

This is all very strange. Despite the similarity of the works of Charles Thornely (this is the spelling used in the RA catalogues), William Thornley and William Thornbery, both Charles Thornely and William A Thornbery appear as artists on the 1901 census.

William A Thornbery ('ARTIST (OILPAINTER)' in 1901) was born in Preston in c.1848. In 1901 he was living in Milton by Gravesend. He was also there in the 1881 census (as "Thornberry")

Charles Thornely (described as 'ARTIST PAINTER' in 1901) was born in Liverpool in c.1833; I think he was the nephew of Thomas Thornely, MP for Wolverhampton. He lived in London, moved to Hastings, back to London (where he lived at "Hastings House", Highgate) before moving to Eastbourne, where he is recorded as an artist on the 1901 census. He died at Eastbourne in 1918. He exhibited at the RA for almost 40 years. Most of his works he showed there were of southern England, Holland, the Channel Islands, etc. None seem to have been of North East England.


https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XSJH-W19
https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X9FH-467

Cliff Thornton,

At the risk of causing more confusion, allow me to throw another name into the mix - John Herbert Thornley. JHT (b.1865) was the son of Charles Thornley and by 1901 was making his own living as an artist.
Referring to the T/H monogram, mentioned by Richard, I wonder if this might belong to JHT? I have seen an example of the monogram where the left upright of the H appears to be a J, Hence the monogram on its own may refer to JHT. But we need to see more examples of the monogram to be certain.

Osmund Bullock,

Oliver is right to suspect two different people. Other than some slight artistic similarities, there is in fact no reason whatever to associate Charles Thornely/Thornley/Thorneley (1832/3-1918) with William Anslow Thornbery/Thornberry/Thornbury (1847-after 1906). And there is also no reason to associate him with the French artist, (Georges-) William Thornley (1857-1935), the son of a Welsh immigrant – see https://www.ville-pontoise.fr/content/georges-william-thornley-peintre-voyageur
Charles's first known exhibited work, a sea view near Liverpool, was at the SBA in 1858, and this would clearly have been impossible for GWT, and all but so for WAT.

As well as the two records found by Oliver, Charles appears in every England census 1841-1911 except 1861. His name is usually shown as ‘Thornley’, though the spelling used by the family was ‘Thornely’. The entries are all consistent for age, place of birth (Liverpool) and family member names, and the addresses coincide with those given when exhibiting. The address he gives when exhibiting in 1860/61, 106 Gt Russell St (Bloomsbury), was in fact the lodgings of his solicitor brother, John (listed as ‘Thorley’). He was indeed the nephew of the Reformist Liberal MP for Wolverhampton, Thomas Thornely (1781-1862), who was the elder brother and business partner of Charles’s father – at Thomas’s funeral at the same Liverpool chapel (Renshaw Street) used by the rest of the family, Charles and his six surviving brothers – “the nephews” – were all in the cortège, and two were his executors. Thomas is also mentioned many times in the 1848 will of Charles’s father.

Charles was the son of John Daniel Thornely (c1788-1848), a wealthy Liverpool merchant trading to the US, and his wife Ann née Lomax (married L’pool 1815). Though the births of Charles’s eldest ten siblings (up to 1829) can be found in non-conformist records, there seem to be none for the three youngest, including Charles and his twin Edward (both apparently born late 1832 or early 1833). Their mother died in April 1836, when Charles was just three, and his father – unusually for a wealthy widower with small children – did not re-marry for six years. In 1851, aged 18, Charles is a ‘commercial apprentice’, but by the time he re-appears in 1871 he is an artist, and remains so thereafter. No serious family rift seems to have been caused by this, witness his official presence at his uncle’s funeral; his father’s will, moreover, had given an equal inheritance to all his sons, and Charles died in 1918 worth a very substantial £82K – hardly achievable from even a quite successful painting career.

Charles Thornely married at Bristol in 1863 Annie Samworth, born in Sept 1831 at Hastings, which explains his links with the town and the south coast. They had two sons and three daughters: the oldest, John Herbert, was, as Cliff points out, also an artist – his profession is given as this in 1891 & 1911 as well as 1901. He was born at Regent’s Park, London, in the last quarter of 1864, and died at Hastings/St Leonard’s in Nov 1845. It is possible the ‘Hubert’ name mentioned is an error for ‘Herbert’.

I’ll deal with William Thornbery in a day or two (though you’ll be relieved to hear there is a lot less of it). He is to be found in the censuses for 1881, 1891 & 1901, all at Gravesend.

Osmund Bullock,

Sorry, typo - John Herbert Thornely of course died in 1945, not 1845.

While we await Osmund's report on William Thornbery, it's becoming clear that Denys Brook-Hart's omnium-gatherum of names beginning 'Thorn…' relates to more than one artist.

However, thanks to Oliver and Osmund, we now have a much more precise identification of Charles Thorneley/Thornely. He was born in Liverpool in 1832 or 1833 and died in Eastbourne in 1918. Osmund notes that the spelling used by the family was Thornely. Moreover, according the compilations of Algernon Graves and others, for all Charles's many exhibits at the RA, BI and SBA/RBA, except just two (RA1860 and 1862) the artist's name was given as Thornely. Both Brook-Hart and E.H.H. Archibald in his ‘Dictionary of Sea Painters’, 1980, give Thornely. Thus, I think we can recommend that the name of the painter of ‘St Helier Harbour’ at Jersey Museum and AG, on ArtUK, should be amended to Charles Thornely (1832/3-1918):
http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/st-helier-harbour-with-boats-and-people-137463

Now, if we compare ‘St Helier Harbour’ with the same-sized ‘Old Hulks on the Medway’, at Dumfries, one of seven works associated with Georges William Thornley on ArtUK, I suggest there is little doubt that the two paintings are from the same hand:
http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/old-hulks-on-the-medway-208383

In fact, the association of all seven items with Georges William Thornley must be called into question; furthermore they are clearly not by one and the same artist. I suggest that the painter of ‘St Helier Harbour’ and ‘Old Hulks on the Medway’ could also have been responsible for ‘Shipping off a Headland’ at Sunderland and the Scarborough picture under discussion, and perhaps too the ‘Barges at the Mouth of the Medway’ at Dumfries:
http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/shipping-off-a-headland-35084
http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/barges-mouth-of-the-medway-208382

The two pictures of racing yachts in the Harris Museum and AG, of similar size, seem to be by a (single) different hand:
http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/racing-yachts-152453
http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/racing-yachts-in-rough-seas-152454
The ‘rough seas’ canvas bears an extremely doubtful signature ‘THORNLEY’ lower left.

I am somewhat baffled by the attribution of ‘Lifting Mists’ at Colchester and Ipswich to F.W. Hurneen and Georges William Thornley:
http://www.artuk.org/discover/artworks/lifting-mists-12031

Oliver is right in stating that Charles Thornely does not appear to have exhibited subjects from north-east England. However, the Blouin art-sales index lists by him paintings depicting Scarborough and Whitby (half a dozen of each) and one of Staithes, all in Yorkshire.

Oliver Perry,

I'm not sure about this; I've scouted round the internet looking for paintings unambiguously described as being signed "C Thornely", rather than just catalogued as being by him. I've compiled them into a pdf (with links), and they seem to show a rather different painter to the artist of the Jersey, Medway and Scarborough paintings.

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Thanks, Oliver. Yes, that compilation does present a painter whose style is markedly different from that of the author of the St Helier picture. Perhaps it's just a coincidence, but the works included are nearly all Dutch scenes. And perhaps ‘Shipping in the Harbour Entrance at Yarmouth’, with its agitated sea, doesn’t sit quite comfortably with the other works in your compilation, which generally seem to avoid movement?

However, if we accept this as a guide to the style of Charles Thornely, then it follows that the St Helier picture is probably not by him (so the Charles Thornely heading on ArtUK would become redundant). It would in turn follow that the paintings currently listed on ArtUK under Georges William Thornley, for which I have suggested a stylistic association with the St Helier picture, are not by Charles Thornely. And all of that would leave us with the problem of attributing the paintings listed under Georges William Thornley (including the Scarborough picture, which was the starting point of this discussion) – assuming we accept that Georges William T. is not tenable. I don’t think there’s any evidence that Georges William T. worked on the British coast.

Osmund Bullock,

(Going back a bit) No, Bruce, I hadn’t seen that, thank you. Brook-Hart sadly died in 1982, so we can’t ask him what evidence he had for his theory about Thornely, Thornbery et al. I will have more to say on that in due course, but I regret having used the phrase “slight artistic similarities” rather snootily before, and also feel rather stupid for having implied that the matter is straightforward, which it most certainly isn’t...in fact the more I find out, and the more signatures I look at, the more impossible to reconcile things it all becomes. Meanwhile here is the genealogical information for William Anslow Thornbery – sorry it’s taken so long, but each time I look a bit wider and dig a bit deeper I find something else. As is my wont, the story is longer than it needs be for art historical purposes, but none the less interesting for that.

He was born in 1847 (the birth registered Q3 at Preston, Lancs,), the eldest son of George Richard Thornbery (born c1820, a clerk-bookkeeper from a professional Worcester family), and his wife Martha née Anslow (married at Kingswinford, near Dudley, in July 1846). William was baptized at Preston in Sept 1847, with three further sons baptised there 1850-52. The family doesn’t appear in the 1851 Census, but in 1861 (recorded as ‘Thornley’!) they – including William – are still at Preston, where William’s father died four years later. William disappears again in 1871 (though one of his brothers is living with an uncle in Edgbaston), but in Sept 1873 he married at Aston, Birmingham, Emma Starling, daughter of a fairly well-to-do grocer – William’s residence is given as Birmingham, his profession as ‘artist’.

They had one child, Annie, born at B’ham at the end of July 1874 (the Aug baptism records him as ‘artist’), but his wife Emma died in March 1876. However, it was not long before he found solace in the shape of Emma’s elder sister Eleanor (nine years his senior) – she being in need of solace herself, having in 1871 divorced the husband who ten years earlier had deserted her and their two year-old daughter (three other children had died in infancy). William and Eleanor unsurprisingly moved away from her family in Birmingham and down to London, where their son, Walter Percy, was born at Barnsbury late in 1877. And in 1879, a safe distance from those who knew them, William and Eleanor then took the serious risk of getting married (at St Pancras) – between 1835 & 1907 marrying your wife’s sister was not just against canonical law, it was a criminal offence.

In the 1881 Census William A Thornbery (spelt correctly), an ‘Artist, Oil Paintings’, was living with his family at South Hill Rd, Gravesend. There was a new arrival, Lily M(aria), born at Gravesend early in 1880 – she, too, became an artist. The house, 140 ft up Windmill Hill, had (and still largely has) a fine view across the Thames to Tilbury Fort and Marshes. By 1891 they had another child (Howard b 1881), and were still in Gravesend, but in a small terraced house on a main road with no view. The spelling is ‘Thornbury’, and William is a ‘Marine Artist’. In 1901 they were at the same address (albeit renamed); it’s ‘Thornbery’ again, William is ‘Artist (Oil painter), and the 21 year-old Lily is an art student’.

William Anslow Thornbery died in January 1907 at “London City” (A district that comprised the old City with a few small adjacent areas – the GRO index lists him as ‘Thornberg’); he was buried at Manor Park Cemetery in Newham on the 14th. By 1911 his widow Eleanor (died 1929) was living in Hampstead with Howard (who later moved to Australia) and Lily, whose occupation is ‘Marine Artist’.

All of which shows conclusively that Charles Thornely and William A Thornbery were different men entirely. And also introduces another complication in the form of William’s daughter, Lily, a marine artist in the early C20th. One might well expect her to have painted somewhat in her father’s style – in 1904, according to Johnson & Greutzner, she exhibited a single work at the Royal Cambrian Academy from her father’s Gravesend address.

Scarborough Collections,

I have received a direct enquiry from a member of the public about the possible location of the above painting and I am almost certain that the seascape does depict Scarborough South Bay with the Castle Headland in the distance. It is very reminiscent of many similar seascapes in the Scarborough Collections.

Osmund Bullock,

Thank you for confirming what we had concluded about the location, Scarborough. I wish the the identity of the artist was so easily resolved!

Now that the discussion has moved on to the authorship, perhaps the owning collection (the Harris Museum and AG) could let us know of any evidence in the way of signatures, inscriptions, labels or documentation, which might provide clues as who painted this work. It would be very helpful to know, even if only to have confirmation that there is nothing!

Bruce Trewin,

Given the subject matter, I would suggest the most likely candidate to be William Charles Thornley, although his other known works are clearly signed with the T crossing the centre of the H, it may be obscured in this case.

Bruce, could you be more specific? So far this interesting exchange has disentangled longstanding 'who's who'confusions and identified the following individual painters, of three different families, by their correctly spelt names;

Georges William Thornley (1857-1935)

Charles Thornely (1832/3-1918) and his son...
John Herbert Thornely (1864-1945)

William Anslow Thornbery (1847-1907) and his daughter
Lily Maria Thornbery (b. 1880)

Is your 'William Charles Thornley' one of these or someone else?

Bruce Trewin,

I was referring to the name used by Denys Brook-Hart, quote:
'Thornley was actually a man called Charles Thornley who worked from an address in Paddington London, but later moved to Rochester in Kent. Although called Charles, his most known name was William Thornley,'

Pieter, looking back on all of the discussion I see that Richard Green also discussed Brook-Hart's ambiguous description of this or these artists, and, as Osmund has pointed out, Brook-Hart is now deceased. I am only led to Charles due to the Scarborough setting of the other painting "A Breezy Day at Scarborough" given the attribution of 'William also known as Charles Thornley'. I agree , not very definitive.

Understood, I think. What you seem to be saying -and I'm only following this line from the discussion here, and the fact that 'William Charles' is the usual identification thrown up on the web - is that the use of 'William' so far has no clear documented basis, such as baptism or census record. I.e its a name which has somehow become attached to Charles Thornely (1832/3-1918) for reasons that - at least here - have not been explained (nor by Brook-Hart). (There is a longstanding parallel example in 'William Clarkson Stanfield' which is equally wrong, was refuted as long back as his 1890s DNB entry, and possibly based on 19th-c. misreading of monogram signatures and /or the fact that he did have a short-lived scene-painter brother called William).

If 'William Charles' and 'Charles ' are -as I take it- the same man, it would be useful to know where the William came from, though its possibly just gained credibility from long repetition,

I realise this is not specifically about the picture under discussion but it can only have been painted by someone who did exist, not a fictional 'William Charles' who didn't: and if he didn't then let's stop the confusion he's caused so far.

Oliver Perry,

The most common name used by the major auction houses seems to be "William Anslow Thornley". This is of course a fiction, conflating the names of the real William Anslow Thornbery, with that the mysterious "Thornley" whom Denys Brook-Hart, probably correctly, believed was his alter ego.


Thornberry seems to have actively avoided showing his works at major exhibitions in London, although he showed at the Royal Hibernian Academy and the Royal Cambrian Academy and in Birmingham around the beginning of the 20th century. He's also in the index of artists in "The Year's Art" from around 1898. Before that, by which time he was well into his 50s, he seems to have kept a low profile, and the only earlier reference I can find to his works before that is in a sale of English paintings in Australia in 1883.

I was intrigued by this unusually specific and dateable subject which 'Thornley' painted couple of times: the visit of the USS Chicago at Gravesend (where Thornbery lived) in May - June 1894.
http://www.grantantiques.com/item/48888

As 'W. A. Thornbury' Thornbery also showed 'Moonlight' at the SBA in 1883/4 and what appear to be a Pool of London pair in 1886: ' A Misty day in the Pool' and 'Sunset in the Pool'. The visit of the USS 'Chicago' (a protected cruiser of 1885) which he painted in 1894 was quite celebrated, at least in naval circles. She was one of the first four American steel ships and sent as their flagship to Europe, 1893-95, largely to make a diplomatic tour. The unusual aspect was that her captain (not the Admiral he served) was the already highly regarded historical writer on naval strategy, Alfred Thayer Mahan, who at this point was more widely known in Europe than in the US. He was much feted during the tour, which was his last command before going ashore to the US Naval War College, where his reputation and work further developed. I doubt Thornbery read his seminal 'The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783' (1890), but that at least explains why he saw the ship in the Thames.

PS: That 'Chicago' at your link is clearly signed 'Thornley' with the H impaled vertically by the T, so assuming it is by William Anslow T. (not 'Hubert Anslow' as Grants call him), he appears to have practised deliberately under a deceptive nom-de guerre. Comparison with Charles T's similarly impaled signature might also be wise just to be sure Grants are not even wronger, despite WAT's Gravesend association.

Oliver Perry,

I'm not sure I've found an impaled Charles Thornely signature, only pictures signed "Thornley" with the T and H interlocking, and attributed to Charles by sellers, presumably on the basis of Denys Brook-Hart's suggestion.

Charles Thornely signed himself quite differently, 'C. Thornely' (not Thornley) with lower case letters where appropriate. I've attached an example from '' Boats in an estuary with a windmill beyond" sold by Bonhams.
https://www.bonhams.com/auctions/14904/lot/332/

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Well that's certainly very different to the 'Chicago' picture's signature of 'THORNLEY' in capital letters (no initials) with the T acting as a nail driven vertically through the crossbar of the H and both taller and wider than it, so I suppose one has to conclude Thornbery was indeed flying decoy colours, whatever his reasons. It would be too much of a coincidence to have another (unknown) third party do that subject on his Gravesend patch.

Oliver Perry,

Interesting about the paired pictures at the SBA: the pictures signed just "Thornley" [impaled] are often paired. For instance this "Shipping at Medway" and "Medway by Moonlight":

http://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/william-thornley-1857-1935-:-shipping-at-medway-168-c-5d9ee01797

And there's a "Shipping on the Medway" (identical title to one of the SBA pictures) with the impaled "Thornley" signature here
http://www.onlinegalleries.com/art-and-antiques/detail/shipping-on-the-medway/224267

Unfortunately, we don't know the sources for these titles.

Osmund Bullock,

Pieter, I don’t think we can dismiss entirely the possibility that Charles Thornely also painted at Gravesend – certainly both of them painted at Rochester, which is only 7 miles away (Charles - ‘Barges at Rochester’ SBA 1884/5; William - ‘Sunset, Rochester from Strood’ RCA 1904). And it seems far from certain the two SBA 1886 ‘Pool’ pictures by WAT were a pair – their catalogue numbers are a long way apart.

Oliver, I can’t seem to find in the SBA list (or indeed any other) an exhibited work called ‘Shipping on the Medway’ by either of them – where did you see that?

I am beginning to suspect that, however unlikely, both men may have signed with versions of the impaled ‘[TH]orn...y’ moniker. I leave an ellipsis between n & y because in many cases the end of the word is unclear, and that may even have been deliberate. If Charles was established earlier and more successful (which his exhibiting suggests he was), I am wondering if William took to using a signature that might be mis-read as Charles’s, at least when not exhibiting. I’m a long way from making sense of this; but I note that at some stage William appeared to sign ‘WA Thornbery’, and he also apparently sometimes signed with a halfway-house that has a conjoined ‘[WT]’ plus ‘hornbery’ I will try and post some of these later or tomorrow – one even looks as if it’s been altered from ‘[TH]ornley’ to ‘WA [TH]ornbery’. I also note that Charles’s earlier exhibited work included views of Tantallon Castle and of Hastings/St Leonard’s (where he lived) – and I think I may have found such views with the ‘[TH]ornley’ signature, or one type of it.

It seems to me that we badly need (a) to find a picture that has a contemporary rear label or inscription which gives us a definite name or address – even a title – to go with a signature. I did see mention of an artist’s label on the back of one work, but of course I can’t find it now; and/or (b) to try and associate with reasonable certainty any of the many listed exhibited works with known extant paintings.

It will be worth trying to access details of some of the two men’s other exhibiting. Johnson & Greutzner tell us that after 1883 William exhibited 19 works at the RHA & 22 at Birmingham – the National Art Library has many original catalogues for both of these, and also a published 1985 Index of RHA exhibitors and works. J&G also shows that post-1880 Charles was still exhibiting very widely, but there was a particularly big group (29) at the ROI, and also some at Birmingham again. I will try and get to the NAL soon to track some of these down – let’s hope one of the 1894 USS Chicago paintings was exhibited.

Osmund Bullock,

I know many of you will have seen them, but for the benefit of those who don’t have (or can’t find) access, I’ve put together a single pdf (attached) with all the exhibiting info I’ve found online for both men (plus William’s daughter), together with images of the relevant pages from two books I have. The pdf thus comprises picture titles and dates from the SBA (1858-89), the RA (1859-98), the BI (1861-67) and the RCA** (1903-04), together with the wide-ranging but less detailed info from Johnson & Greutzner’s ‘British Artists 1880-1940’ (covering 1880-1906). Incidentally, William’s daughter, Lily Maria Thornbery, died in 1964 at Paddington, which completes the genealogy.

[**The Royal Cambrian Academy’s past exhibitions archive has now been uploaded to the net, but I only came across it by chance – the link to it on the RCA website doesn’t seem to be live yet. For the time being the following link takes you to the inaugural one (1882), and you can then substitute the year you want for ‘1882’ in the address bar (they continue to 1961):
http://rcaconwy.org/uploads/downloads/RCA-1882-CAT-optimised.pdf ]

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Though the Harris's picture still needs a firmer attribution I've followed a previous habit of editing these interesting and useful contributions on unknown or much-confused artists into a more concise first draft form, the credit being to those who provided the information. See the Word attachment here.

I've not mentioned the Blouin-based suggestion of Charles T painting in Yorkshire (partly since I've not been able to access it), but it is notable that his large exhibition tally does not include any Yorkshire subject, which makes me wonder if that's not another confusion at the moment-and hence the caution. My own instinct, though no more than from scanning Charles's images and the few we have seen of William Anslow T, is that I wouldn't be surprised if the Harris pic was the latter, but TBC of course.

Oliver Perry,

I think there's good evidence that Thornbery painted the USS Chicago at Gravesend, and maybe we can work from there. I'd like to compare this alternative version of the "Chicago" with a painting called "Unloading the Cargo" on Wikisource".

http://www.vallejogallery.com/item.php?id=141
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:William_Anslow_Thornley_-_Unloading_the_cargo.jpg

I can't believe these aren't by the same artist. The second picture has a very interesting signature (detail attached). It's described as "WA Thornley". The last few letters are in fact rather obscure, but the whole thing looks very much like the usual "WA Thornbery" signature (second attachment).


Another objection to the "Thornley" paintings being by Charles Thornely is his lack of motivation. Their large number (perhaps even suggesting a workshop system) and often formulaic nature, rather indicate that they're the work of someone trying to maximise their income, something which, as Osmund indicates, Charles probably would not have needed to do.

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Oliver Perry,

Sorry,the "Shipping on the Medway" was an error on my part. Still, I think there's a considerable distance between the stles of the "Thornley" and "C Thornely" paintings.

A reviewer the "Electrical Times" (!) in 1891 wrote "Mr. Charles Thornely's "Dutch Boats." It is a picture low in tone, as Mr. Thornely's work often is, full of restfulness and repose. No Englishman can better paint a barge, or the broken lights on a spread sail, or more effectually carry you to the land of windmills and barges than Mr. Thornely."

Osmund Bullock,

Some early evidence that William Anslow Thornbery did paint at least one view of Scarborough. In Nov 1873 artworks from the collection of a Kirkaldy painter, George Gourlay, were put up for auction locally – they included two attributed to ‘W A Thornberi’ [sic], one of which was titled ‘Off Scarborough’. The other one confuses things again: it was called ‘Off Dunbar’, and Dunbar is just 6 or 7 miles down the coast from Tantallon Castle, views of which were exhibited by Charles Thornely at the RA in 1864 & 1874. I’ve seen a number of coastal scenes with the [TH]ornley signature that probably (if not very accurately) show Tantallon, including this one incorrectly described as being a view of Whitby: http://www.baronfineart.co.uk/Gallery/image_links/williamthornley/william-thornley-whitbyearlymorning.jpg

Harris Museum & Art Gallery,

It has been fascinating, if not a little confusing at times, to catch up with this discussion. Thank you all for your contributions. We have looked at the painting, and on the reverse, glued to the mahogany panel, is a label handwritten in ink which reads ‘by Thornley 29/10/86’. Also a framers label ‘the Old Golden Palette HW Taylor and Co. 61, Queens Road, Bayswater London W’. Photos attached.

We have very little information about the painting but we do know that it was a gift from F W Sharples Esq in 1956 along with 57 other paintings, watercolours and a drawing – mostly landscapes and seascapes. After a bit of digging we found that he was a ‘member of the attendant staff’ at the museum.

Thank you to Richard and Scarborough Collections for identifying the scene, we agree that the title should be amended to Fishing Boats off Scarborough.

The two other paintings by Thornley in the collection are untraced finds with no additional information, but we agree that they appear to be by a different hand. There are no paintings listed by Thornbury or Thornely.

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Even if we are not further forward on firm attribution, I think I am correct in saying no-one believes this is by the French artist of Welsh paternal parentage, Georges William Thornley to whom it is currently ascribed. So which of the other two should this be provisionally associated with until that gets resolved? Or is it a case of possibly either?

Many thanks to the collection for that additional information.

I'm sure we all agree with Pieter that this painting is not by Georges William Thornley. The mystery is just how seven pictures in four different UK public collections and by at least two different hands came to be associated with him.

As a small addition to Osmund’s compilation of recorded exhibition pictures, I attach a list of Charles Thornely’s Grosvenor Gallery exhibits (albeit with the name spelt Thorneley, at least in this transcription). There are no Yorkshire subjects here. More to the point, however, is that the Grosvenor Gallery was a showing place for progressive, non-mainstream art and it is difficult to believe that the rather conventional coastal and river scenes we have been discussing (including the newly identified ‘Fishing Boats off Scarborough’), are by a painter or painters who exhibited there. For this reason I suggest that ‘Fishing Boats off Scarborough’ is unlikely to be by Charles Thornely. On the other hand, William Anslow Thornbery, who did not exhibit at the Grosvenor Gallery, could be our artist.

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There is a small selection of Georges William Thornley in his French Wikipedia entry including at least one good 'W Thornley' signature in which the T crosses the top of a lower case 'h', and there is obviously nothing in Art UKso far correctly identified as by him.

The other two are clearly a muddle in themselves, but given there is no evidence of exhibited Yorkshire work by Charles (pace Blouin), WAT might be the better to focus one as a potential immediate target.

Tim Williams,

It would appear that the identity of Mr Thornley has been evading art historians for 100+ years (see attached). I should think Mr. Senior would have been greatly interested in this discussion!

Forgive me for muddying the waters further and throwing more names into the pot, but currently the only lead I can offer is looking into the family of Morgan Alfred Thornley, another marine painter, his father was George D'Arcy Thornley a Captain in the Royal Engineers submarine mining division (based in Pembrokeshire). George D'Arcy Thornley pops up in Lloyds register of shipping, something to do with Thomas Wilson Sons & Co circa 1915 (google books snippet). It may just be a coincidence that many artists with the name Thornley favoured marine subjects, but there's an outside chance of some family link - regrettably, I have no idea if George had any other children. Compositionally, Morgan Alfred Thornley's 'The Port Of London' and 'Harbour scenes with various boats and cranes' sit very well with 'United States Cruiser Chicago'.

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Osmund Bullock,

Tim, I'll look into those Thornleys in due course.

Yes, Pieter, in addition to having a far looser handling of paint, Georges William's 'W Thornley' signature seems consistent and quite different to any version of the other two – it is usually found with the tail of the 'y' broadened and swept left to underline the surname. However, it hasn't stopped him being misidentified as one of them...here is a watercolour of Venice by him (with another one two lots later), catalogued as the portmanteau 'William Anslow Thornley' by a Boston auction house: http://www.skinnerinc.com/auctions/2284/lots/529

The reason I found these is that I was (without success) looking for any of Charles Thornely's Venice paintings: he exhibited six at the SBA 1879-84. And this is part of a problem I still have: where are all his other works, especially the earlier ones? We have – in particular Oliver has – identified his later oil style in the 'Dutch' paintings clearly signed 'C Thornely', and often dated in the 1870s/80s; these parallel Dutch subjects he exhibited from 1874. But the only earlier (1850s/60s) work so far identified is the much less static Yarmouth Harbour view of (apparently) 1868 – assuming we can trust Christies' reading of the signature and date (neither is legible in the image), not an entirely safe assumption in this context. But we should not be too surprised to find the odd work by him with a busier sea: while it’s clear he preferred scenes "full of restfulness and repose" – the vast majority of his exhibited titles that indicate a sea state include the words "calm", "becalmed", "low water" and suchlike – there are a couple, of 1866 & 1888, called "A Stiff Breeze".

The frustration is that no-one has yet found one of the three (named) lighthouses (1858-65), or the Jersey Martello Tower (1862), Aberystwyth Castle (1865) or any of the Hastings/St Leonard's views (1866-72). Could it be that Charles Thornely only started signing his works later on – possibly even as a result of wanting to distance himself from the mass of [TH]ornley seascapes appearing on the market? 'Thornely' and 'Thornley' are homophones, and I suspect the confusion between the two men is long-standing. And I still think it quite possible that William Anslow Thornbery's undoubted use of the name 'Thornley' (to me now, anyway) may have been far from innocent, even if it started accidentally. I've more to say about the Thornbery/Thornley matter – in particular to draw attention to some intermediate signature forms – but I'll leave it for another post.

The subjects of the pictures on Art UK are sometimes as questionable as which of the two (now possibly three if we include Tim Williams's Morgan Alfred ) 'Thornleys' who did them. The following -from which I've omitted the 'Scarborough' canvas above- are listed on Art UK under Georges William Thornley, but aren't (pending convincing counter-explanation for no 4). The link to each is included here at the end of each para.

1. 'Old Hulks on the Medway' in the Crichton Royal Hospital (Dumfries and Galloway) has got confused in terms of title with its pair (no. 2 below). It shows Thames barges appropriate to the Medway or southern east coast of England but the townscape to the right crowned by a church, and with an enclosed harbour, is so exaggerated in height above water, that I don't recognize it as anywhere on the south side of the Medway. Chatham has a church tower similar, but below the highest ground to the south, and the rest -inc lack of Chatham naval/ dockyard content- doesn't fit.

(http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/old-hulks-on-the-medway-208383/view_as/grid/search/makers:georges-william-thornley-18571935/page/1)

2.'Barges, Mouth of the Medway', pair to above but with title swapped: same collection and same so far unidentified town seen from the other direction (ie looking west). The naval accommodation hulks and lighter barges one would find on the Medway, but again the location intended is problematic. Swapping the east/west orientation of both these pictures and looking for a site on the north side of the Medway also doesn't work.

(http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/barges-mouth-of-the-medway-208382/view_as/grid/search/makers:georges-william-thornley-18571935/page/1)

3. 'Racing Yachts' in the Harris AG looks like cutter-rigged working boats more likely to be pilot cutters or fishing craft, off a large, low townscape: the rig form suggests English boats and one has M -or MP?) on the sail (which might suggest a registry location) but its hard to suggest what the city beyond might be, at least in Britain rather than Dutch/ Belgian /northern France - but even old Calais did not have that many towers.

It's not by GWT, apparently not by CT, and if by WAT either uncharacteristic or 'very early' - a speculation based solely on the signature visible on no. 4 below, since they are apparently a pair, though I've not checked the sizes, or at least by the same hand.

(http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/racing-yachts-152453/view_as/grid/search/makers:georges-william-thornley-18571935/page/1)

4. Also Harris AG: same hand as above I think (pair?) and clearly signed THORNLEY. Not 'Racing Yachts....' as per current title since the same observations apply to the boat types; mainly cutter-rigged (and presumably fishing/ small working ) craft, though that in front is a ketch or yawl with a lug mizzen, which would anyway be unusual for anything with a gaff main, but the technical accuracy is anyway less than convincing. Might be English east coast, but if so the where is again problematic. My inclination is that both this and no. 3 may be at least semi-imaginary pot-boilers by some other 'Thornely' altogether.

(http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/racing-yachts-in-rough-seas-152454/view_as/grid/search/makers:georges-william-thornley-18571935/page/1)

5. 'Lifting Mists' at Colchester by 'F.W. Hurneen and Georges William Thornley' I'll omit : there's clearly an 'authorship' story there for some unstated reason but its 'sui generis' amid the rest and a mood piece without an obvious location (though British or Channel rather than Dutch) so needs separate attention.

(http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/lifting-mists-12031/view_as/grid/search/makers:georges-william-thornley-18571935/page/1)

6. 'Shipping off a Headland' at Sunderland. The shipping - inc two Thames barges front left, one with a load of hay heading for London - and the townscape behind, show this is in fact 'Shipping off Gravesend', looking broadly south-east from the river or Tilbury side. The obvious candidate for doing it would be WAT, simply on location, but not necessarily.

(http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/shipping-off-a-headland-35084/view_as/grid/search/makers:georges-william-thornley-18571935/page/1)

The following are on Art UK as by Charles Thornley [sic,'Thornely']:

7. 'St Helier Harbour with Boats and People' in Jersey Museum and AG. Presumably Jersey know their own topography and have identified the high line of what are apparently fortifications, upper right, as Fort Regent, though I can't find what the higher ruinous tower at far upper right above it might be. That said, the shipping -though not the topography- shouts 'Thames and Medway' : there are three Thames barges included of which that at centre (though shovel- or lighter-headed in this case) is reminiscent of that in the Sunderland 'Shipping off Gravesend' (no 6 above) in its general treatment and positioning. Normally Thames barges ran hay into London for its vast horse population over a cargo of vegetables and something heavier like bricks from the Essex brickfields, and were essentially riverine and offshore coastal craft. The Channel Islands is a long way, and though I do not know if they went there it seems a strange destination for hay (unless in short local supply), with easily imagined practical difficulties in Channel conditions. Jersey may have comments, if asked (which I'll leave to PCF)

8. 'Hay Barges' in the Russell Cotes Museum. Probably a Medway study, though the flat, low form of barges and possibly long rudder could suggest the 'upstream' type used on the upper reaches of the Thames as well - not in open estuary waters - from London westward, to Windsor and beyond. Albeit just a study, in terms of style, its very different from all the rest.

(http://artuk.org/discover/artworks/hay-barges-59183/view_as/grid/search/makers:charles-thornley-active-1858c1902/page/1)

If 1, 2, 6, 7 and the 'Scarborough' canvas prove by the same hand, it won't be a surprise and despite the fact that Charles T painted in the Channel Islands, there's nothing 'reposeful' and 'Grosvenor-Galleryish' about them. They are conventional marine subjects of their period, most rather dynamic/ melodramatic.

Osmund Bullock,

Just to clear up Morgan Alfred Thornley (1897-1965) for Tim. Morgan was, as you say, the son of George D'Arcy Thornley (1871-1924): the family was definitely 'Thornley', not Thornely, and they are wholly unconnected with those of Charles Thornely and William A Thornbery. It is *just* possible (but most unlikely) that he was related to Georges William Thornley, whose Welsh father was also called Morgan Thornley - Morgan Alfred's family, however, are not known to have been connected with Wales before the late 1880s, and seem to have originated in Lancashire.

[ Further biographical info in case you want it. Morgan Alfred's father George D'Arcy was not a professional Royal Engineer, he was a Volunteer Submarine Miner (as were his father and two brothers), commissioned in 1889 - in the 1891 Census (at Penarth) he is described as a ship broker, and in 1901 (by then at Sydenham) he was working for a coal shipping company. He was indeed a senior manager with Thos Wilson Sons & Co - see http://www.wormsetcie.com/en/1916/19160920de-james-burness-and-sonslondres.html .

Educated at Brighton College, in 1915 Morgan enlisted in the RAMC, later receiving a commission in the Norfolk Regt and serving in France. He married in 1923 (divorced 1930); in 1929 he briefly joined the Merchant Navy as a wireless op. (cert by the P Office in 1926), but two months later emigrated to Australia (profession 'artist') with his widowed mother. After her death in 1930 he re-married over there, but seems to have returned to England with his new wife by 1931 when his 7 year-old daughter was killed in a motor accident - he was certainly back by 1932. Both before and after his Australian sojourn (and up till the early 1950s), he kept a studio in Park Walk, Chelsea. He died at Chorleywood. ]

Backtracking, I've probably been overhasty on no. 6 above, 'Shipping off a headland'. which doesn't enlarge, in thinking it is Gravesend, but certainly 'Thames estuary' area, so I'll raise that as a separate query, but since it may take time to appear any other suggestions here in the Kent/Essex area would be welcome (though high ground for Essex): its that sort of church.

Thanks for pointing that out: so continuing my list above for 'William Anslow Thornbury';

9. 'Sunrise, Low Tide, Leigh [on Sea]', Essex, in the Beecroft (44 x 39 cm est., beq. Sidney Thorpe-Smith 1961) appears to be signed lower left, but its not clear : view looks east and with that identity the tower on the hill is presumably St Clements church.

10.' A Breezy Day at the Mouth of the Thames' also in the Beecroft (44 x 39 cm est., beq. Sidney Thorpe-Smith 1961): apparently makes a pair to the above and is signed at lower right, though also not clear. Presumably the Kent side in the outer estuary and perhaps around or east of Margate from the high bluffs. General shipping disposition also suggests looking outward.

11. 'Sunset on the Thames' at Southampton, (20.2 x 30.4 cm , beq. of Sir James Lemon, 1923) fairly clearly signed lower right W A THORNBURY (all cap I think) and looks like St Clements, Leigh, again looking west on the Essex side.

12. 'Sunset on the Thames' , (20.2 x 30.5 oil on wood, beq. of Sir James Lemon), also at Southampton; again looks like Leigh, but from the west -so probably in fact a 'Sunrise' ; signature lower left but not clear (?). Difference of support suggests not a pair to no. 11 although same approx size.

All these look 'of a piece'. No 11, at least, which has the clearest signature, is obviously not by Charles Thornely for that reason, while no. 10 -as Oliver points out - is fairly clearly the same hand as no. 7 of 'St Helier' in Jersey, so far attributed to Charles, and thereby also probably no 6 at Sunderland from the similarity of barge treatment. Nos 1 and 2 also look to fit: again the positioning and style of the barge in one is a parallel, and the sunset treatment in that of hulks, with the Southampton pair (nos. 11 and 12). While still not entirely conclusive on the 'Scarborough' image, that shows the way the wind is blowing. It looks as though all the credible candidates (1,2,6,7,9, 10,11, 12) currently attributed as either Georges William or Charles Thornley/ Thornely are adrift and by W. A.Thornbery/-bury or are at least more likely to be so than their current attributions.

It would certainly help to have better signature details, where they exist, all round.

This discussion satisfactorily resolved the original question of the location shown long back, with Richard Green's suggestion that the picture be re-titled something like 'Fishing Boats off Scarborough with the Castle and Lighthouse in the Distance'.

It also resolved that the artist is NOT Georges William Thornley but one of two others of the same surname (one of whom also used Thornbury/bery) who have proved very difficult to distinguish in a photo-based exercise. Could I suggest that the collection change the title and tentatively reattribute to (both) William Andrew Thornbery or Charles Thornely unless they wish to backtrack over the evidence supplied and take a preference? Then at least we advance a little way.

Below are consolidated biographies of all the people we have identified based on the discussions so far and some minor web digging and checks in standard sources:



William Anslow Thornbery (1847–1907), coastal marine painter, was born in Preston, Lancs, the eldest son of George Richard Thornbery (b. c.1820, a clerk/book-keeper from a professional Worcester family), and his wife Martha, née Anslow (m. at Kingswinford, near Dudley, in July 1846). William was baptized at Preston in September 1847, with three further sons baptised there, 1850–52. The family does not appear in the 1851 census, but in 1861 (recorded as ‘Thornley’) they – including William – are still at Preston, where George died four years later. William disappears again in 1871 (though one of his brothers was living with an uncle in Edgbaston, Birmingham), but in September 1873 he married at Aston, Birmingham, to Emma Starling, daughter of a fairly well-to-do grocer: his residence was also then in Birmingham and his profession stated as ‘artist’.

They had one child, Annie, born at Birmingham at the end of July 1874: the August baptism records William as ‘artist’ but Emma died in March 1876. However, it was not long before he found solace with her elder sister, Eleanor (nine years his senior): she needed it herself, having in 1871 divorced the husband who ten years earlier had deserted her and their two year-old daughter (three other children had died in infancy). William and Eleanor unsurprisingly moved away from her family in Birmingham to London, where their son, Walter Percy, was born at Barnsbury late in 1877. In 1879, at St Pancras, a safe distance from those who knew them, they took the serious risk of getting married: between 1835 and 1907 marrying your wife’s sister was a criminal offence as well as against canon law.

In the 1881 census, William A. Thornbery, an ‘Artist, Oil Paintings’, was living with his family at South Hill Road, Gravesend. His daughter Lily Maria, was born there early in 1880: she, too, became an artist of marine subjects albeit so far practically unknown, and died in Paddington, London, in 1964. The house, 140 feet up Windmill Hill, had (and still largely has) a fine view across the Thames to Tilbury Fort and Marshes. By 1891 they had another child (Howard, b. 1881), and were still in Gravesend, but in a small terraced house, 163 Old Road West, with no view. The spelling this time is ‘Thornbury’, and William is a ‘Marine Artist’. In the 1901 census they are called ‘Thornbery’, the 21-year-old Lily being noted as an ‘art student’.

Thornbery seems to have avoided showing works at major exhibitions in London, although (as W.A. Thornbury) he had a ‘Moonlight’ at the SBA in 1883/4 and two, of a ‘Misty day in the Pool’(presumably the Pool of London) and a ‘Sunset in the Pool’ in 1886. He appears in the index of artists in ‘The Year’s Art’ from around 1898 and exhibited at the Royal Hibernian Academy about 1900, and two works in 1903 and one in 1904 at the Royal Cambrian Academy, Conway (which spelt his surname as ‘Thornberry’).

Thornbery died in January 1907 in ‘London City’ (a registration district that comprised the old City with a few small adjacent areas) though the GRO index lists him as ‘Thornberg’: he was buried at Manor Park Cemetery, Newham, on the 14th. By the time of the 1911 census his widow, Eleanor (d.1929), was living in Hampstead with Howard, who later moved to Australia, and Lily, whose occupation is given as ‘Marine Artist’. If she painted in her father’s style it is possible their work could be confused, though hers is barely known: in 1904, however, she exhibited a single work (‘Dawn’) at the Royal Cambrian Academy from her father’s still unchanged Gravesend address. Much difficulty has arisen from confusion of Thornbery’s name as Thornbury or Thornely, and of him with Charles Thornely (1832/3–1918), who is also often misleadingly called William or William Charles. He appears to have reinforced the problem by sometimes signing ‘THORNLEY’, with a slightly larger T overlaid centrally on the H, for reasons on which one can only speculate.


Charles Thornely (1832/3–1918), coastal marine painter, often misleadingly called William or William Charles, was son of John Daniel Thornely (c.1788–1848), a wealthy Liverpool merchant trading to the USA, and his wife Ann, née Lomax, (m., Liverpool, 1815), who had 13 children. John’s elder brother and business partner was Thomas Thornely (1782–1862), Liberal MP for Wolverhampton and at the time of the latter’s death Charles and six of his brothers were his surviving nephews through John. The birth entries of Charles’s elder ten siblings up to 1829 appear in Liverpool non-conformist records but there seem to be none for the three youngest children, including Charles and his twin Edward (both apparently born in late 1832 or early 1833). While the baptismal record is missing, why Charles is often called ‘William’ is uncertain, since this does not appear in other formal records, unless by later confusion with William Anslow Thornbery (q.v.) who seems also to have used the name Thornley (but in that variant spelling). His mother died in April 1836, when he was three, and their father only re-married six years later. Charles appears in all censuses from 1841 except 1861. In 1851, aged 18, he was noted as a ‘commercial apprentice’ but he first exhibited a coastal view near Liverpool at the (Royal) Society of British Artists in 1858 and from then to 1902 showed over 200 works in London and other cities including Birmingham, Dudley, Nottingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow: they included 53 at the RA, (1859–98), 29 at the ROI, and 47 at the (R)SBA to 1889, of which he was elected a member in 1886. His London exhibiting addresses from 1858 to 1865 included his solicitor brother John’s lodgings at 106 Great Russell Street in 1860-61 and he is noted as an artist in all censuses from 1871 on. No obvious family rift seems to have been caused by this and, since his father’s will had given a equal bequests to all his sons, Charles died in 1918 worth the considerable sum of £82,000, which is unlikely to have been solely from painting and suggests a well-managed inheritance. Thornely married at Bristol in 1863 to Annie Samworth (b. Hastings, September 1831). They had two sons and three daughters: the oldest, John Herbert Thornely (sometimes called ‘Hubert’), was also an artist – the occupation given in the censuses of 1891, 1901 and 1911. He was born at Regent’s Park, London, in the last quarter of 1864, and died at St Leonard’s, Hastings, in November 1945. The Thornelys had also lived in St Leonard’s and Hastings itself from 1866 to 1877, then at ‘Hastings House’, Highgate (1878–84), Hampstead (1884–86), East Moulsey (1887–91), London (Howland Street, 1892-98) and from 1899 at Eastbourne, where Charles died in 1918. Apart from mainly southern and south-western English coastal scenes he also painted some views in Scotland, Wales and the Channel Islands, and worked abroad. By far the largest number of foreign subject he exhibited were Dutch, with a few of Venice and one or two Belgian and French examples.

Georges William Thornley (1857¬1935) was son of Morgan Thornley, a Welsh immigrant to France, and there became well known as a lithographer and landscape painter, including for work based on his travels in Provence, Brittany, Normandy, the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Vosges. He first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1878: in 1881 he won an honourable mention there and in 1888 a medal. Living at Osny from 1892, a journey down the River Vexin led him to Pontoise, where he met Monet and Pisarro, with whom he became friends at a time when both were seeking to publish work. Apart from his own painting, he became the former’s favoured lithographer and also did many prints after work by the latter and other artists. He died on 21 August 1935 in hospital at Pontoise and was buried in the town cemetery there. The Musee Pisarro at Pointoise holds examples of his work, and the largest public collection is in the William Thornely gallery of the handsome Chateau de Grouchy, Osny, of which the modern postal address is 14 Rue William Thornley.

[To which can also be added, to avoid further confusion, as per information supplied by Osmund Bullock:-]
Morgan Alfred Thornley (1897–1965) was the son of George D'Arcy Thornley (1871–1924). There is no known connection with any other of the ‘Thornley’ artists: the family seems to have had Lancashire origins with Welsh connections from the late 1880s, but it appears only coincidental that George William Thornley’s father was also ‘Morgan’. George D'Arcy was a Volunteer Submarine Miner (as were his father and two brothers), commissioned with the Royal Engineers in 1889. In the 1891 Census, at Penarth, he is described as a ship broker, and in 1901 (by then at Sydenham) he was working for a coal shipping company. He became senior manager with Thos Wilson Sons & Co. His son Morgan was educated at Brighton College and in 1915 enlisted in the RAMC, later receiving a commission in the Norfolk Regiment and serving in France. He married in 1923 (divorced 1930) and in 1929 briefly joined the Merchant Navy as a wireless operator (he was certified by the Post Office in 1926), but two months later, noted as an ‘artist’ by profession emigrated to Australia with his widowed mother. After her death in 1930 he re-married over there, but seems to have returned to England with his new wife by 1931 when his seven-year-old daughter –by the first - was killed in a motor accident: he was certainly back by 1932. Both before and after his Australian sojourn (and up till the early 1950s), he kept a studio in Park Walk, Chelsea. He died at Chorleywood.

Edward Stone,

The collection has been contacted about this recommendation.

Edward Stone,

Harris Museum & Art Gallery thank everyone involved for a very thorough investigation. They are happy to accept the changes recommended.