Oswald Walters Brierly - Life


Brierly entered Sass's art-school in London, and after studying naval architecture at Plymouth he exhibited some drawings of ships at the Royal Academy in 1839. He was twice married and had an active and prosperous life, and was a well-respected artist; some of his best pictures are in Melbourne and Sydney museums.

He had a passion for the sea, and in 1841 started round the world with Benjamin Boyd (1796–1851), afterwards well known as a great Australian squatter, in the latter's ship Wanderer, and having got to New South Wales, made his home at Boyd's private whaling and trading village of Boyd Town in Twofold Bay on the New South Wales coast for ten years. He managed Boyd's whaling operations. Brierly Point is called after him. Increasingly disgruntled with his treatment by Boyd, he left New South Wales, joining voyages on HMS Rattlesnake in 1848, and with Sir Henry Keppel on the Meander in 1850; he returned to England in 1851 on this ship, and illustrated Keppel's book about his cruise (1853). Brierly named his eldest son 'Keppel' after his friend.

When the Crimean War broke out in 1854, Keppel gave Brierly an observational post on his new steam line-of-battle ship, St Jean d'Acre, in the Baltic Fleet. The Illustrated London News commissioned Brierly to sketch Allied naval operations. In 1855 the St Jean d'Acre went to the Black Sea, and Brierly went with her. Though Brierly did not stay with her; he worked on several ships in the Black Sea. In 1856 a series of lithographs of his sketches were published as Portfolio of Marine and Coastal Sketches by Mr. William Brierly. When Queen Victoria reviewed the fleet at Spithead at the end of the war, Brierly was on the royal yacht making sketches. This and Keppel's friendship with the Prince of Wales led to royal patronage and several commissions. Brierly was attached to the suites of the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales on their tours by sea, the results being seen in further marine pictures.

In 1874 Brierly was made Marine-Painter to Queen Victoria. He exhibited at the Royal Academy, but more largely at the Royal Watercolour Society. His more important works included the historical pictures, The Retreat of the Spanish Armada (1871) and The Loss of the Revenge (1877). In 1885 he was knighted.

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