River Nidd, Knaresborough, Yorkshire

William Lee Hankey

English ( b.1869 - d.1952 )

River Nidd, Knaresborough, Yorkshire

  • Oil on canvas
  • Signed lower right

Image size 24.6 inches x 29.7 inches ( 62.5cm x 75.5cm )
Frame size 29.7 inches x 34.8 inches ( 75.5cm x 88.5cm )

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Sold by Big Sky Fine Art; this original oil painting by William Lee Hankey.
The painting is presented and supplied in a sympathetic and contrasting contemporary frame to suit the scene colouration (which is shown in these photographs). The painted surface has benefitted from cleaning and conservation, which took place in 2014 on our instructions. An older small canvas repair is not visible from the front but is evident on the rear.
This antique painting is now in very good condition, commensurate with its age. It is supplied ready to hang and display.
The painting is signed lower right.

William Lee Hankey was a British painter, etcher and book illustrator. He specialised in landscapes, harbour scenes, character studies and portraits of pastoral life. He belonged to the Newlyn School of artists, who were interested in capturing local villagers and their rustic surroundings and was influenced by the Romantic poets such as Wordsworth and Keats.

He was born in Chester on 28th March 1869 and educated at King Edward’s School, Chester. After leaving school he worked as a designer and studied art in the evenings at the Chester School of Art under Walter Schroeder, then at the Royal College of Art.

In the early 1900s he travelled to France, where he studied the works of leading European artists, including Jules Bastien-Lepage. His own style developed and he painted the people and landscapes of Normandy and Brittany. He wanted to capture the unspoilt peasant lifestyle, which he felt was already disappearing in England. From 1904 until well after World War I he maintained a studio at the Etaples art colony.

Hankey witnessed the German invasion of France and Belgium in 1914, after which his work began to focus on the French refugees whose lives were rarely depicted in artistic circles. In addition to his painting he had developed a reputation as one of the very best etchers of his generation, and his stylistic presentation of “The Refugees” was his contribution to raising awareness of the consequences of the German invasion for ordinary people.

He returned to England and enlisted as a volunteer with the Artist’s Rifles, with whom he served from 1915 -1918. He saw active service in Flanders in 1915. He was married to Mabel Lee Hankey and later to Edith Garner.

Hankey exhibited from the early 1890s in all the major London galleries, including the Royal Academy in London, the Old Watercolour Society, the New Watercolour Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Oil Colours. He was President of the London Sketch Club from 1902 to 1904. From 1906-7 he exhibited at the New Zealand International Exhibition. He won many medals, including gold medal at the Barcelona International Exhibition and a bronze medal in Chicago. In 1936 he became a member of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolours and was elected president in 1947. He was also chairman of the Empire Art Council. He died in London on 10.2.1952.

Today his works are represented in collections in England such as the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert as well as provincial galleries, and galleries abroad such as Budapest and Vienna.

Artist and writer A.L Baldry wrote of Hankey in a 1906 publication, The Studio, that “He is in his watercolours an absolute purist; he paints entirely with transparent pigments, and never has recourse to opaque colours; his brushwork is broad and confident – free, on the one hand, from affectation of showy cleverness, and, on the other, from niggling minuteness or overelaboration; and he does not insist, as is the fashion with many present-day painters, upon lowness of tone.”

This is a delightful scene, light, airy and extremely pretty. Although Knaresborough is close to Harrogate in the West Riding of Yorkshire this has a real continental feel to it. The houses on the banks of the River Nidd are picked out in pinks and blues, cream and buff colours, with a church to the rear, and an arched stone viaduct which would carry the railway over the river. In the foreground are three tall trees, and on the river below is a small punt with two figures. The sky is pale blue with light skipping white clouds. The overall mood is serene and uplifting.