William James Aylward

The Illustrators:

William James Aylward (1875-1956), master of seafaring art, was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where his father worked in a shipyard and as captain of a Great Lakes sailing vessel.

“My love of the the water and of things pertaining to it began at an early age,” Aylward wrote. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students' League in New York, he studied at Howard Pyle's Wilmington, Delaware school of illustration.

There he learned to combine his two great passions, painting and the sea. He illustrated magazine stories for Harper's and Scribner's written by himself and others, including sea stories by Jack London and Joseph Conrad, and an edition of Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

Aylward knew the sea as few artists do. He went to sea in 1905, a sixteen-month voyage on steamers and sailing ships that took him to seaports around the world. During World War I he was one of eight official artists with the U. S. Army in France.

After the war he remained in Europe for another eight years painting maritime subjects. Back in the United States, Aylward became a regular contributor to The Ladies' Home Journal and other publications.

He could paint the romance of the sea as well as the the mechanics of shipyards and vessels large and small. His paintings and illustrations of sunlit maritime scenes capture the brilliant colors and strong value contrasts, while his accurate details reveal his thorough knowledge of maritime subjects.

William James Aylward won many prestigious awards for his art, both in Europe and America. He wrote a book, Ships, and How to Draw Them, and in the 1930s taught at the Pratt Industrial Art School and until the 1950s at the Newark [New Jersey] School of Fine Art.

Check the Image Galleries, in particular the Maritime Gallery for more examples of illustrations by William James Aylward.

Above: "The Surrender of the Guerriere," Harper's Monthly Magazine, March 1912, also entitled "The Spirit of 1812," in the May 1912 issue.

Right: "The Democratic Landing at Boothbay Harbor," Harper's, 1917.

Right: "Hong Kong, 1910," painted from sketches made by Aylward when he visited Asia in 1906.

"A Region of Perpetual Soft Sea Coolness," illustrating the story "Long Island Loiterings," by Harrison Rhodes, Harper's Magazine, August 1918.

"To Artists the Call of the Coast Is Irresistible," from "Maine and the Summer Sea," by Harrison Rhodes, Harper's Magazine, August 1917.

Above: "Battle of Lake Erie," Harper's Magazine, August 1913. Naval engagements of the War of 1812 were among Aylward's favorite nautical subjects.

The Evacuation of Boston," 1918.

Story illustration, Harper's Magazine, April 1917.

"To the local population the arrival of a steamboat is always an important event," from "Steamboating Through Dixie," Harper's Magazine, September 1915.

Above: "Singapore, 1909." Aylward visited Singapore when he was aboard the U.S. Navy supply ship Glacier, flagship of a small flotilla that escorted a huge floating drydock under tow from New York to the Philippines in 1905.

Above: Illustration for Ladies' Home Journal, one of a series in the 1920s.

"New Bedford whalers - the last of a gallant but passing race," from Harper's Monthly Magazine, December 1918.

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