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 William Gay Yorke  (1817 - 1892)

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Lived/Active: New York/New Brunswick / England/Canada      Known for: ship portrait, yacht races and history subject painting

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Ad Code: 3
William Gay Yorke
from Auction House Records.
American Ship "Anglo Saxon"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Gay Yorke's paintings of ships evolved naturally enough from a combination of artistic talent and an early life spent around sailing vessels as a shipwright, painting in his spare time. In his early thirties, he was successful enough as a painter of ships to give up his trade and paint full-time.

Yorke was born in Canada in 1817 in St. John's, New Brunswick. In 1848, he had a son, William Howard York, whom he taught to paint and with whom he collaborated on ship paintings until 1870 when their relationship soured for unknown reasons. Speculation was that the twenty-two year old artist wanted to go out on his own, rather than work with his father.

An oddity in the spelling of Yorke's name developed between 1861 and 1870; he left off the "e". It seems unlikely that this was in any way related to his separation from his son in that latter year. But, in artistic style, the two were very similar, it being difficult to tell one's work from the other. Perhaps it was an attempt by one of the artists, most likely the elder Yorke (the younger was only thirteen years old in 1861) to differentiate himself from the other.

By 1850, Yorke and son had moved to Liverpool, England. When they separated, the elder Yorke set sail for America, where he lived impoverished and frequently on boats including a canal boat in Brooklyn harbor.  He painted until his death.

There are certain shadowy aspects with regard to details of William Gay Yorke's life, in addition to the change in spelling of his name. It is not known where and when he died, or whether he ever returned to England. His last known address in Brooklyn was in the year 1882. His last known painting, the Statue of Liberty, was executed around 1888. With the exception of his paintings, William Gay Yorke then sliped into the mysteries of eternity.

He was a painter of ships, from sailing vessels to steam ships, yachts to tugboats. William Gay Yorke's paintings may be seen in the Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut.

The younger Yorke continued ship painting in Liverpool, England until his death in 1921 in Liverpool.

Michael David Zellman, Three Hundred Years of American Art
Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
The following is from Dana Haviland who wrote: "I thought maybe this would interest you; it certainly did interest me, as we own two paintings by Mr. Yorke, both dated 1872. "

According to The New York Times, dated 12/9/1882, p. 8 and titled, "The Case of Mr. Yorke,"
"In speaking of the case of William G. Yorke, the marine artist whose boat was capsized by one of Mr. Starin's boats, Mr. Solomon T. Buckley, agent for Mr. Starin, said yesterday that the facts of the case were not correctly reported. When capsized the small boat was near Bay Ridge, in the track usually taken by the boats returning from there; the night was dark, and Mr. Yorke's boat carried no light, so that the accident was due to Mr. Yorke's carelessness.

Mr. Yorke, his wife, and child were taken on board the D. R.Martin and cared for. With the exception of the wetting, no injury was done to Mr. Yorke or his son. His wife, who had been a cripple from birth and who was dressed in male attire, had a slight scratch on one of her feet. In Mr. Starin's absence from the City, Mr Buckley gave Mr. Yorke $25, and offered to give him the temporary use of a room for his family.

Mr. Buckley has no recollection of mentioning the case to Mr. Starin, but when Mr. Starin learned the facts from other sources Mr. Buckley was directed to relieve the wants of the family. "I sent for Mr. Yorke," said Mr. Buckley, "and found him really in need. I gave him an order for money and groceries, and the offer of a home for himself and family on one of Mr. Starin's steamboats laid up for the Winter, with a salary of $40 a month as ship-keeper. He thankfully accepted the offer at once, and has been thus employed since Tuesday. With the exception of inflammation in one of his eyes, which originated long after the accident, both Mr. Yorke and his family are well and comfortable."

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