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Lionel Percy Smythe

Lionel Percy Smythe, RA RWS RI ROI (4 September 1839 – July 1918) was an English artist, and etcher.

Life and work

Lionel Percy Smythe was the illegitimate son of Percy Clinton Sydney Smythe, 6th Viscount Strangford and Katherine Benham (later Mrs Wyllie). He was born in London on 4 September 1839 and spent his early years in France, where his younger sister and brother were born. The family returned to London in 1843 and lived in Gloucester Crescent, Camden). Smythe was educated at King's College School. He was also partly educated in France and spent holidays there at Wimereux in Normandy with his stepfather William Morrison Wyllie and family. He trained in art at the Heatherley School of Fine Art.[1] He was half brother of the artists William Lionel Wyllie and Charles William Wyllie.

Smythe exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1863 (becoming a member in 1911) and the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours from 1881 (becoming a member in 1880) - he eventually transferred his allegiance to the Royal Watercolour Society in 1892, becoming a member in 1894. Smythe painted rural landscapes, genre and maritime scenes, people and animals in both oils and watercolours, and became associated with a group of artists called the "Idyllists"[2]

Smythe and his wife Alice made frequent trips to France and eventually settled in Normandy in 1879, in an old Napoleonic fortress on the coast at Wimereux - until the building was inundated by the sea. Subsequently they moved, in 1882, to the Château d'Honvault on a hill between Wimereux and Boulogne. The couple had three children. Smythe lived and worked here until his death in 1918, the countryside and rural life of the area becoming the main inspiration for his art.

Selected works

File:Lionel Percy Smythe - Under the greenwood tree.JPG
Under the Greenwood Tree (watercolour, 1902)
  • The Arabian Nights (1865)[1]
  • Shorthanded (1874, marine)[3]
  • Field of the cloth of gold: Twixt Calais and Guines (1883)[4]
  • Mowers with elm trees[4]
  • The First Buds of Spring (1885)
  • Springtime (1885)
  • Germinal (1889)
  • Harvesters returning
  • Children fording a river by a continental town (1891)
  • Boulogne fishing folk (1893)[5]
  • La Tricoteuse
  • Bleaching linen (pre 1896)
  • Caught in the frozen palms of spring
  • Spring outing
  • Under the Greenwood Tree (1902)
  • The Farmyard at Château d'Honvault, Wimereux (1908)
  • The Adoration (1909)
  • The Harvester (1910)
  • Summer
  • Shrimpers
  • A Thick Night Off the Goodwins (marine)
  • The Bait Digger (1910)
  • When life is hard its better to be young (1911)
  • Hounds


  1. ^ a b See accompanyinmg text to "Arabian Nights" (
  2. ^ The Idyllists - this group also included the artists J. W. North, Fred Walker, George Pinwell, R W Macbeth, Hubert Herkomer and the writer Richard Jefferies.
  3. ^ Smythe drew preliminary studies for this painting on the schooner "Wave" sailing from Gravesend to Guernsey - for more details see "Shorthanded" (National Maritime Museum).
  4. ^ a b See Wilcox & Newall, p166.
  5. ^ Boulogne fishing folk (

Further reading

  • A. L. Baldry. Lionel P. Smythe, A.R.A., R.W.S.; An Appreciation of his Work and Methods (The Studio Magazine, May 1910, p. 177).
  • Rosa M. Whitlaw & W. L. Wyllie. Lionel P. Smythe - His Life and Work (Selwyn & Blount, London 1923)
  • Scott Wilcox & Christopher Newall. Victorian landscape watercolors (Hudson Hills, 1992), pp166–167.

External links

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