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Whitley, William Thomas

    Full Name: Whitley, William Thomas

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1858

    Date Died: 1942

    Place Born: Kensington, Kensington and Chelsea, London, England, UK

    Place Died: Farnborough, Bromley, Greater London, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): British (modern)


    Amateur art historian and authority on British artists. Whitley was son of William Whitley, a fabrics dyer, Mary Gilday (Whitley). After private education he joined his father’s business, though his real interests were to be a painter. Between 1887 and 1900 he exhibited landscapes and other works at the Royal Academy. In 1888 he married Mary Alford (1854/5-1931). Whitley began writing articles on British art in the Morning Post. More serious pieces also appeared in the Burlington Magazine, The Studio, and The Connoisseur. In 1915 he published his first monograph, Thomas Gainsborough. The success of this led to Artists and their Friends in England, 1700-1799 in 1928. Art in England, 1800-1820 appeared the same year, and, in 1930, Art in England, 1821-1837. He returned to artistic biography with Gilbert Stuart in 1932, and Thomas Heaphy (1933). Together with Ellis K. Waterhouse he curated an exhibition of British artists for the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1932. Although Whitley was awarded a civil pension for art-historical work, he died destitute in a county hospital. Artists and their Friends in England, 1700-1799 included contemporary newspaper articles and other documentary information of the artists. Although highly anecdotal, the book was an early one to look at contemporary documents of eighteenth century artists.

    Selected Bibliography

    and Waterhouse, Ellis, and Adams, C. K. Catalogue of an exhibition of the works of some neglected English masters, c.1750-c.1830 : [exhibition] Burlington Fine Arts Club. London : Priv. print. for The Club, 1932; Thomas Gainsborough. London, Smith, Elder & co., 1915; Art in England, 1800-1820. Cambridge, [England] : The University Press, 1928; Gilbert Stuart. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1932; Artists and their Friends in England, 1700-1799. London/Boston: The Medici Society, 1928; An Eighteenth-century Art Chronicler: Sir Henry Bate Dudley, bart. Walpole Society 13 (1925).


    Woodall, Mary. “Whitley, William Thomas.” Dictionary of National Biography; [obituary:] The Times (London) November 21, 1942, p. 6.


    "Whitley, William Thomas." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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