***ATTENTION READERS! This artist occasionally
noted the title or location information on the backs of
his works. In an effort to prove or disprove the claim the
W. Stewart was a pseudonym of artist Frederick
James Aldridge (FJA), as mentioned in the body of this
article, I am collecting examples of writing from the
backs of the works of this artist to be used in comparison
to examples of FJA's writing. Such examples will
ideally come from the back of the paper on which the image
is painted, but all images are welcome. Please send images
of any such examples to kevin at kevindaniel.com! ***
W. Stewart (AKA J. Hill, AKA F. Grayson) was a prolific artist, painting in watercolors and oils. He also painted under at least two pseudonyms, as noted, though the great majority of his works were signed W. Stewart. His preferred medium seems to have been watercolors, judging by the fact that his watercolors are most plentiful. I have not yet seen an example of his work in oils. His favorite subjects seem to have been marine related, fishing smacks, beaches, harbors, etc. His watercolors, signed "W. Stewart", "J. Hill", and "F. Grayson" or with the initials "WS", are well executed and show a knowledge of his subject matter. What first attracted me to his work was the brilliant colors in one of his paintings, a beach scene, that is likely 100 years old, or older. I later found out that this vibrancy of color was not typical of his work, however, with his most common works being more muted. Mr. Stewart painted both in Britain and in Europe, especially Venice.
So why am I hosting this web page? I feel that it is a shame that an artist of this caliber has been forgotten. Why W. Stewart, when there are so many other fine artists who have been forgotten? Well, because I bought one of his paintings, I guess, so I am taking this personally.
This is the painting that first caught my eye. I call it "A Rugged Coast". It appears to be in the original frame. There was no label on the back of the frame. This painting and frame are in nearly perfect condition. I had the painting re-matted and backed with acid free materials. This gave me an opportunity to look for a name on the back of the painting. There was none. This painting was one of a set of two paintings, in identical frames, however. The other painting did have an inscription of the back that gave the locale of the image portrayed as Cornwall. This other painting is of fishing smacks with a coastline in the distance. The colors of the distant coastline are similar to the colors in this painting.
The identity of W. Stewart is a mystery. His work has been attributed to several men, all named William Stewart. There is no proof that any of these artists was W. Stewart, however, or that the initial "W." stood for the name William. The paragraphs that follow give an outline of what I been able to discover about these artists and examine the potential that one of them is W. Stewart. This research is ongoing.
W. Stewart is frequently identified as William Stewart who was born in 1823 and died in 1906 in Scotland. This identification can be discounted, however, as two paintings signed and dated 1912 by W. Stewart have come to light. This was six years after the death of William Stewart.
William Stewart resided in Edinburgh 1841-45, was the first headmaster of the Norwich School of Art (1845-48), a teacher at the Paisley School of Design in Paisley, Scotland 1849-1864, Glasgow 1865-1881, Girvan Ayershire 1882-1886, and is last known to have resided in Greencock, Renfrewshire, Scotland. He seems to have spent his entire career in western Scotland and the titles of his known works indicate that he did not travel far from home. There is no mention of William Stewart of Paisley painting in Venice, as our W. Stewart is known to have done.
There were several William Stewarts who were painters and were associated with this region of Scotland around the beginning of the 20th century. The most prominent of these was William Stewart 1823-1906, who was well known during his life time and for some time after his death, a teacher of well known painter James Elder Christie, and grandfather of contemporary watercolorist Donald Buyers. William Stewart's biography describes his work as rustic interiors, still lifes, and landscapes. There is no mention of William Stewart painting seascapes or marine paintings, which seem to have been the mainstay of W. Stewart.
Technically, the pigments used in the works of W. Stewart appear to be much brighter that those that would have been available to William Stewart 1823-1906. It also appears that some of the materials used and labels present on W. Stewart paintings would not have been used before 1906. Stewart last exhibited work in 1894, so may have been inactive after that time, which would push the types of paint and other materials available to him back a few more years.
The Library of the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA), does not have examples of the signature or work of William Stewart, 1823-1906, in their collection, but did send me a record of paintings exhibited by William Stewart of Norwich, Paisley, etc., at the RSA and Royal Glasgow Institute of the Arts (GI) between 1841 and 1894. Stewart exhibited 43 paintings at the GI and 73 at the RSA. None of these were seascapes, though one was called "Mending Nets" and another "Blaggo Bay, Isle of Man". It is the opinion of the Asst. Librarian at the RSA with whom I corresponded, that our W. Stewart was not this William Stewart. I also contacted the Norwich Museum and the Museum and Art Galleries in Paisley, sending them examples of W. Stewart's signature and paintings. The librarian at the Norwich Museum and the Keeper of Art at The Museum and Art Galleries in Paisley are also of the opinion that this work was not done by William Stewart of Norwich and Paisley. I was able to locate a photograph of one work attributed to William Stewart of Paisley and Norwich called "Babys Asleep". Though not easy to see, the signature does not appear to be similar to that on the paintings of W. Stewart.
It is apparent that the attribution made by many sources that W. Stewart is the same man as William Stewart 1823-1906 who exhibited at the RSA and GI is not correct.
Another William Stewart, also associated with Paisley, was born in 1886 and was still active in 1934. W. Stewart's work is sometimes attributed to this man, as well. This William Stewart typically signed his work with his initials or with a monogram. "Our" W. Stewart signed his work "W. Stewart" and sometimes also signed with his initials.
William Stewart exhibited at both the RSA, 2 paintings, and GI, 7 paintings, between 1914 and 1922. The 2 paintings shown at the RSA were also shown at the GI. I have not found a clear description of this man's work, but indications are that the subjects of his paintings were usually buildings. This is supported by the names of the paintings exhibited at by this man at the RSA and GI.
Stewart published a touring guide and history of Scotland and Scottish clans called "CLANLAND" in 1927 for the London Midway and Scottish Railway Company. I have a copy of this book in my collection. "CLANLAND" was written and illustrated by Stewart and it contains a dozen or so full page watercolor portraits of Scotsmen in kilts in picturesque locations. Many of these are signed with Stewart's initials. There does not seem to be a strong similarity between the way that the two artists signed their initials, this man preferring a rounded "W", while our W. Stewart seems to have always used a pointed "W". Also, William Stewart's work is not as sophisticated as that of W. Stewart, though I have only the works in the book as a comparison and they may have been simplified to reduce costs for producing this book.
An interesting fact about this William Stewart is that he is the only man by that name, or Stewart male whose first name began with the initial "W", to exhibit a work at the Royal Academy Schools in London, and there are indications that W. Stewart did so, as well, evidence of which will be presented later in this work. The painting, called "Beached" was shown there in 1924. Another interesting fact from this William Stewart's biography is that one of his interests was travel. Our W. Stewart was a traveler, too. William Stewart b. 1886 remains a candidate for W. Stewart, in my opinion.
William Arnold Stewart lived during the time frame when W. Stewart was active. He was born in Ilkley, Yorkshire, England and studied at the Royal College of Art. He traveled to, and painted in, Palestine, Egypt and Venice. He was a British colonial official and moved to Egypt in 1911 where he worked for many years before being assigned to Palestine. He was a noted Egyptologist. He retired in 1947 and returned to England, where he died in 1953. I have examined works of this artist that were painted from 1909 up to 1942, and he consistently signed his work "W. A. Stewart" followed by the year the painting was created. I find no similarities between the works of W. Stewart and William A. Stewart. On only one occasion that I aware of, has a work of W. Stewart been attributed to William A. Stewart. Upon conversation with the gallery that made this attribution and a sharing of my research with them, this attribution was retracted.
The Calton Gallery, Edinburgh, had an exhibit titled "William Arnold Stewart Festival" in 1986 and a book was generated to commemorate this event. This may be the same man. I located a copy of this book in the inventory of a bookseller in France. The description the bookseller sent me of it was that it was "11 pages with few images", so this may have been more of a biographical effort, rather than a collection of his works, and the book was rather pricey, I did not acquire it.
The painting below, Campo San Barbana, Venice, is from my collection and dates from the period that W. Stewart seems to have been active:
Besides the two men noted above, only one other man named Stewart, whose given name began with the letter "W", exhibited at the RSA between 1826 and 1990, and the GI between 1831 and 1989. This was a William B. Stewart who exhibited 2 paintings at the GI in 1974, much too late to be W. Stewart.
So what can be said about W. Stewart? His first name is not known and could have been William, Walter, Wallace, etc. Proof that this W. Stewart's first name was William would not help matters much, since William Stewart was a common name in Scotland, if we are to assume that he was Scottish. The Stewart name can, for instance, be found in Paisley as early as the 12th century. He was active in the early part of the 20th century, judging by the period frames that appear to be original to several of his paintings in my possession and by his painting style. His work is most common in the United Kingdom and it's Commonwealths, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, with most works in the UK. His works have also been found in South Africa and the United States. He was most likely of Scottish descent, given his surname. He was an accomplished artist, apparently formally trained. All of the work that can be attributed to him seems to be very well done. He probably spent a lot of time near the sea, as that was a dominant theme of his work. The titles of two of his works in my collection are known, and both refer to southern England, and one more specifically to Cornwall. Titles of two other paintings attributed to W. Stewart refer to the east coast of England and to the Bosphorus (Istanbul?). I have not been able to examine these works, with only references from auction records being available. Other W. Stewart paintings depict Venetian scenes. Stewart was certainly well traveled if he painted at the locations depicted in his paintings. He may have made his living as an artist, given his dedication as shown by the number of his works that have survived. I am aware of about 30 works by this artist that have been offered by galleries or come up for auction in since the mid 1990s, and news ones pop up with some frequency.
One of W. Stewart's paintings was apparently framed or re-framed by a Minneapolis, MN based art gallery. The gallery label has several interesting handwritten notations. First, the title of the painting is recorded as "Fishing Boats South Coast of England". Second is the notation "Royal Academy Schools". I contacted the Library of the Royal Academy of Arts in London and was told that no one named William or W. Stewart has ever been a student at the School there. The Royal Academy was and is a prestigious art society with high standards. They have commonly included the works of talented artists who were not members of the Academy alongside works by members of the Academy in their exhibitions. This painting may have been purchased at such an exhibition. The only Stewart with the first initial of "W." to have ever exhibited at the RAS is William Stewart b. 1886. The label on the painting seems to date from the time the painting was framed but the information contained on the label can not be confirmed. I have contacted the gallery (The Beard Art Galleries), for more information. This painting is in my collection, but unfortunately is solidly glued to its mount, so it is not possible to examine the back for an inscription. I will leave it to the reader to assess whether the boat in the center of this painting might fit the title of William Stewart's RAS exhibit.
Two paintings by W. Stewart, in identical frames, bear the label of Wm. Whiteley Ltd., Queens Road W. 2., Bayswater, London. Another painting has the label of the The Hudson Studios, Birmingham. Two others have the label of Horace H Joyce, Fine Art Depot, 46 High St., Chatham. This suggests that W. Stewart lived and worked in southern England.
It has been suggested by one gallery owner and researcher that W. Stewart may have been a pseudonym as well, and he was creating paintings that contained popular themes of the time, selling them through department stores and other outlets, while exhibiting his "academic" works through established galleries and fine art dealers under his real name. This was a common practice during the time when W. Stewart/J. Hill/F. Grayson was active.
W. Stewart, J. Hill, and F. Grayson
are mentioned in a book, Hidden Talents: A Dictionary of Neglected
British Artists 1880-1950, by Jeremy Wood. Mr. Wood
has a great interest in obscure, but talented artists, and
apparently spent considerable effort in writing a book about
them. His work is not backed by documentation, but seems to
be based on his familiarity with the works of W. Stewart and
other artists. Mr. Wood made the discovery that W. Stewart
also painted under the names, "F. Grayson" and "J. Hill",
and sometimes signed with the monogram "WS". He also
speculates that W. Stewart may have been a student of well
known artist, Frederick James Aldridge. I had noted the
resemblance between the work of these two men and contacted
an Aldridge historian who gave me this information, as well,
but she was not aware of Wood's book. This historian knew of
no connection between W. Stewart and Frederick James
Aldridge, but did not discount the possibility. Her Aldridge
seems to be off the Web recently, but check back as it may
Several collectors and dealers that I have corresponded with are convinced that these paintings are too similar to the work of Frederick James Aldridge, and are indeed his work, probably for the department store trade of the time. One mentioned to me that he had contacted Aldridge's family about this matter but they had declined to comment. If these are by Aldridge, it may be possible to compare the handwriting of the artist's notes on the back the paintings to determine if they are in the same or different handwriting. Since some of the paintings in my collection bear such inscriptions, I assume other works by this artist do, as well. I have not explored the possibility that F. J. Aldridge made similar notations on the back of his works.
From Jeremy Wood's book:
This is the only mention that I have found of W. Stewart, J. Hill, or F. Grayson in the many art reference books that I have searched. Mr. Wood's fine book is available from his gallery:
Next steps? More research. Comparison of the notations on the backs of F. J. Aldridge's paintings to notations on the backs of paintings by our mystery artist. Examination of other existing W. Stewart paintings for clues. Examination of any catalogs, etc., from exhibitions and galleries in Scotland and England dating from around the turn of the 20th century are in order. Some general research into available books containing information about British and Scottish artists, particularly any from the turn of the 20th century should also be undertaken, in addition to what has already been done. Some sources also state that W. Stewart exhibited at the Royal Society of Artists, Birmingham; and the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool. I have not yet been able to examine these claims, but will attempt to do so.
I would be grateful if anyone with additional information about this man would contact me.
In the mean time, I will continue to do research and update this web site as I discover more about W. Stewart. I am including images of paintings from my collection and others that I have found posted on the Internet that seem to be by W. Stewart, for reference. I am also including results of auctions for William Stewart 1823-1906, William Stewart b. 1886, and W. Stewart, and the results of my search of available texts held by Milner Library at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois.
This painting is from my collection. When I had this painting re-matted and backed, I found the title written in pencil on the back of the painting. Note the buoy in the foreground. A favorite item in the works of W. Stewart and something to look for in his marine scenes. This one is in the original frame. There was no label on the backing of the painting.
From my collection. I call this one "Fishing Fleet in the Morning" (it could easily be "The Evening"!). This is also in the original frame and bears a brass plaque inscribed "W. Stewart". This painting was attributed to William Stewart 1823-1906. The seller told me that he could not confirm this, but had seen similar paintings with the same attribution. There was no label on the back. The painting is glued to a piece of cardboard that has a picture of a pirate on it and the words "My Fortune A Treasure Chest of Enjoyment". That may not have been all of the original writing, on what may have been something like a placard advertisement for cigars, etc.
I have seen two other paintings by Stewart in very similar frames, including the brass name plate, obviously a set as they were together. Both depicted stormy weather marine scenes with fishing boats. They were smaller than my painting, both 5"x10" not including the frames. They appeared to be very faded, possibly "touched up", and priced rather high, so I did not attempt to acquire them. The seller called them "Rough Harbor" and "Windy Harbor", but I do not know if that title actually appeared on either painting.
From my collection. This one was reframed and matted before I purchased it, so no clues to W. Stewart's identity accompanied this painting, unlike others in my collection. This was such a nice one that I purchased it anyway, though. The seller's research indicates that the "SM" visible on the sail of the ship in the foreground indicates that this ship was registered to the port of Shoreham, in Sussex.
From my collection. For some
time I believed that these paintings might have been
done by our W. Stewart and were the first example of
paintings that he dated, some of his very early
work. I have since received an image of another
painting by the same artist that was actually
painted on the back of a piece of a shipping
container with HMS Inflexible and other pertinent
information written on it. The owner of this piece
believes it to be painted on part of an old tea
chest, and it may be. The signature is similar to
the ones on the ship paintings. The painting is an
oil of an Egyptian scene with pyramids in the
background and dated 1913. That fact that it is an
oil, dramatically different from any other Stewart
work to date, and of much lower quality has
convinced me that these paintings are the work of an
amateur artist and not the work of our W. Stewart.
The pair of warship paintings are both dated 1912. Stewart wrote the name of the ship, the year and his signature on a diagonal in the lower right corner of the paintings.
HMS Juno was an Eclipse Class Second Class Protected Cruiser, launched in 1895 and was 5th in line of the 7 ships that have borne that name. It served during WWI and was scrapped in 1920. The HMS Inflexible was an Invincible Class Battle Cruiser, launched in 1908, and served in many notable battles and events in WWI. At one time it was the flagship for the British Mediterranean fleet and later the flagship for the British Dardanelles squadron. It was scrapped in 1921. If you are interested in WWI British war ships, here is your site!
While these paintings are not
of the same quality or executed with the same skill
as other paintings by our Mr. Stewart, this could be
attributable to the fact that they were done early
in his career. Jeremy Wood's book suggests
that Stewart was active between about 1910 and 1930,
so this work would have been done very early in his
career, if that estimate is correct. That may
account for the fact that it seems to be very
different than his later works, but I really think
this is a different artist. Both of the ships are
painted on store bought artist board, another first.
All of his other works are painted on paper. There
is writing on the back of both of these. One says
"Mr. Snook" and the other "H. M. Snook". This may be
the name of the person these were painted for framed
for. It is interesting that Mr. Snook's initials are
"HMS". A coincidence?
Another pair that was found together. Stewart's smaller works seem to have often been sold in similarly framed in pairs. These two had apparently been reframed before I bought them. They were in matching "Mission style" oak frames, with no matting, even though they were in the UK. Both paintings had writing on the back, one titled "Low tide". Both had the following notation on the back "No 8 126/". This was probably a framer's mark and may have had to do with the style of the original frames.
This image from the Internet, and attributed to William Stewart 1823-1906. This painting was reported as sold at auction in Canada in one source I examined. I was unable to discover the purchase price. It seems similar in description to a painting from another source, also offered by a Canadian auction house, that did not sell. It may be that this painting did not sell, and I was unable to determine the purchase price because it was not, in fact, sold. I attempted to contact the gallery for more information but received no reply.
These paintings were both
offered by the same gallery, at the same time. Both
were attributed to William Stewart 1823-1906. Note
that the signature is on the lower left in one
painting and on the lower right in the other
painting. It is hard to make out the signatures on
these paintings in order to compare them with
examples from the paintings in my collection. The
ubiquitous buoy is present in the second painting,
Note that the first of these two paintings was painted at the same location as the painting from my collection that I call "Fishing Fleet in the Morning". The sea wall seems to dominate the horizon, as if the land behind it was below sea level. Also note that W. Stewart must have spent some time there, as the boats in the two scenes are completely different.
Both of these unnamed paintings were offered for sale on an on line auction web site by a seller in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, United Kingdom. Both paintings have a label on the reverse that reads "Wm. Whiteley Ltd, Fine Art Department, Queens Road W. 2". This company is apparently no longer in existence, but was located in Bayswater, London. This establishment was a famous Bayswater department store that was founded in 1863 and closed in 1981. The main store was moved to Queens Road in 1911, though other shops owned by Whiteleys were on that road as early as 1875. The road was renamed to Queensway, at some point, so it should be possible to discover the latest date when this label would have been used and determine the time frame when these paintings might have been held by Whiteleys. Very preliminary research indicates that this label may have been used between 1911 and 1946. Many of the records of Whiteleys have been preserved at City of Westminster Archives Centre and it may be possible to discover more about W. Stewart by examining these records.
These paintings were offered at auction for a starting bid of about $280 each. Neither was sold. I have tried to contact the seller, with no success.
From my collection. No doubt about this one being our man. The signature is very similar to the other examples from my collection. Note the similarity between this painting and the painting above it. Note the dissimilarities as well. There is a difference in feeling and technique between the two paintings, if I am not mistaken. Perhaps there was enough of a lapse of time between when these two paintings were done that the artist's style had changed. Perhaps Stewart was revisiting an earlier work. This is the painting that has the Beard Art Galleries label on the back. The frame appears to be original to the period of the painting, and the framer I took it to, to have it re-matted, believes it to be the original frame. It may be that the Beard Art Galleries put their label on it when they sold it. Unfortunately, the painting is glued to a heavy paper board backing so we will never know if there is an inscription. This is the painting that is a candidate to be a painting by William Stewart 1886 - aft 1934, based on the fact that he exhibited a painting named "Beached" at the Royal Academy Schools in 1924. This painting might be construed to show a beached ship, but since the ship in the foreground appears to be on the seaward side of the buoy, that is a stretch. At any rate I guess we will never know if the word "Beached" is inscribed on the back of this painting. That would be too easy!
W. Stewart did a third version of this painting, similar in size to the larger of these two, about 10"x20". I have seen a very small jpeg image of this version. It differs in that it replaces the row boat with two figures in it with another fishing smack under sail, among other differences. I include the image below, though it is not very good.
Here is an example of W. Stewart's Venetian work. It has the label of a Birmingham, England business on the back. It may be that this painting was framed or exhibited there. I have contacted a descendant of the owner of this business, The Hudson Studios, and they are doing research to determine when this label was in use.
This is definitely our guy. The gallery that had this painting cites the information from Jeremy Wood's book, Hidden Talent, on its web site. Unfortunately this seems to be a vestigial remnant of this gallery's web site, as the gallery's URL and email address are no longer active. The signature in unmistakably that of our W. Stewart. My friend Phil, another W. Stewart collector, who lives in S. Wales was able to contact this gallery and discovered that this painting was sold some time ago, and the gallery owner did not recall how he deduced the artist's name was "Wallace Stewart".
This pair of paintings both bore the framer's label of Horace H Joyce, Fine Art Depot, 46 High St., Chatham. Chatham's east of South London. Both paintings depict a Venice harbor scene.
This painting was attributed to John William Hill, an American artist who painted in New England and lived 1812-1879. Note that the sail bears the "SM" registration for Shoreham, Sussex that appears on several of W. Stewart's other paintings. Note also the many common features that this painting shares with numerous other Stewart paintings. IMHO, this painting was misidentified, and is actually one of W. Stewart's "J.Hill" works, as noted in Jeremy Wood's book, "Hidden Talents".