Leaving Aberystwyth Harbour into a headwind, 1897

Alfred Worthington

Welsh ( b.1835 - d.1925 )

Leaving Aberystwyth Harbour into a headwind, 1897

  • Gouache
  • Signed lower right, dated 1897 on the reverse

Image size 21.5 inches x 31.1 inches ( 54.5cm x 79cm )
Frame size 26.6 inches x 36.2 inches ( 67.5cm x 92cm )

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Alfred Worthington has been described as the last of the artisan painters. He had little or no formal training and his style remained naïve throughout his life. His best works are those of the ships and seas of Wales, which - like him-, are energetic, unpretentious and vigorous.

He was born in Dover, Kent, into a middle class family. His father was a naval lieutenant who had fought in the Napoleonic wars. As a child his interests were the sea, wildlife and photographs. He was given art lessons, but this was his only formal training.

He spent some time fishing and hunting in Canada before marrying Elizabeth Ashtell in 1862. They started a family, but in around 1870 he became ill as a result of an epidemic, which killed one of his children, and on medical advice the family moved to Aberystwyth. The fact that he went on to father a total of 15 children, and live to the age of 89 seems to have justified this move.

At Aberystwyth Worthington set himself up as a photographer and a portrait and landscape painter. He also decorated a variety of domestic items, such as fire screens and nick-nacks on slate for the tourist market. He became a respectable and well-known local citizen and an important part of the life of Aberystwyth. He gave up photography around 1900 to concentrate on painting land and seascapes and it is for this part of his career that he is best known.

Worthington loved the sea, and his work reflects both this love and understanding of it. He bought at least five fishing vessels for his sons, who were fishermen, though tragically three of them died as a consequence. One of his sons was also a member of the lifeboat crew, so the family were very much part of the coastal community.
His paintings of ships on choppy seas are considered his finest works.

He died at the age of 89 in 1925.