Which Penley artist?

The PENLEY artists.
Attributing the work of minor artists, particularly British nineteenth century, can lead to erroneous assumptions which are thereafter not challenged. Such is the case with the Penley family. Years ago, when I was full-time at Cheltenham Art Gallery, I became intrigued by watercolours attributed to Aaron Edwin Penley. At that time I had many other things on my mind and I did not give the subject much concentrated attention ? although I did add some further works to the existing collection of Penley works. Some years later I was called back to Cheltenham in a temporary capacity to catalogue the works on paper collection ? something which has claimed my attention over the subsequent years.
A lesson I have learnt is that nothing beats exploring in detail the actual, physical, work ? by which I mean examining every mark and inscription on back and front. When examining in close detail the Penley watercolour works I began to realise that revealing information was contained on the reverse of the work ? in particular that the name of the listed artist Aaron Edwin Penley was not that on the reverse of the work but a ?Edwin Aaron Penley?. In comparing the works of these two signatories I began to discern a possible difference between the works by Edwin Aaron and Aaron Edwin ? in terms of favoured size of paper and of technique. These differences were not obvious if one assumed that a work bearing the signature ?Penley? was the officially accepted Aaron Edwin. My first thoughts in those early days had been that Aaron Edwin sometimes used the alternative signature of ?Edwin Aaron? or ?E A? Penley. ? or that someone else had added the name. My later more concentrated attention in exhaustively cataloguing the collection revealed some information to which I had not previously paid much attention. It was recognising that one work bore a date after Aaron Edwin had died, listed as 1870, that I realised that we were dealing with more than one Penley.. In consulting the usual art reference books and articles, other sources like the Dictionary of National Biography and the catalogues of major collections, I found no reference to anybody other than an ?Aaron Edwin Penley : 1806-1870?. Being mainly otherwise engaged my pursuit of a solution to this problem did not go away but was put on the back burner. An unexpected breakthrough came when I came across a family history search and report by an Australian family whose roots had been in nineteenth century Britain and who counted amongst their forebears a Penley family. Family histories can be very complicated and raise a lot of unanswered questions ? this family tree was particularly complicated but had been well researched, giving a number of clues as to where I could find more information relevant to my pursuit of the Penley case. Unravelling the clues provided me with the following :-
PENLEY, Aaron Edwin. 1807-1870.
Born Rye, Sussex ? died Lewisham, London. Son of William Penley (d. 1838). Brother of William Henry Saulez/Sawley Penley (1793 ? 1866) a Drawing Master at Reading. Uncle of Edwin Aaron Penley (1828 ? 1893) Artist and Drawing Master. Father of Claude Penley (b1841) landscape painter. Specialised in landscape painting but also Portrait Painter and Water-Colour Painter to King William IV and Queen Adelaide. Drawing Master at Cheltenham College 1846 ? 1849.. Landscape Drawing Master at Royal Military Academy, Addiscombe and Woolwich. Member of New Water-Colour Society. Exhibited RA, BI, SS, NWS. Author of Author of ?A System of Water-Colour Painting? 1850, published by Winsor & Newton. ?The Elements of Perspective? 1851. ?The English School of Painting in Watercolours? 1861; ?Sketching from Nature in Water-Colours? 1869. Exhibited New Watercolour Society and RBA.
1 : An Unknown Seated Gentleman : 1844 : w/c : 29.6 x 24.6 : 1948.160.
2 : Huts at Dunevaggon : 1856 : drawing : 28.4 x 36.7 : 1978.975.
3 : Lake Landscape : 1862 : w/c : 16.6 x 26.6 : 1971.46.
4 : Lake Scene, Menaggio, Lake of Como : : w/c : 18.4 x 25.9 : 1972.116.2.
5 : Cadenabia, Lake of Como : : w/c : 17.8 x 25.7 : 1972.116.1.

PENLEY, Edwin Aaron. 1828 ? 1893.
Born Southsea, Hampshire, died Richmond, Surrey. Son of William Henry Saulez/Sawley Penley(1793 ? 1866), Drawing Master at Reading. Grandson of William Penley (d 1838). Nephew of Aaron Penley(1807 ? 1870). Landscape painter and Drawing Master. In 1851 lived and worked in Reading. In Tasmania in 1858. In 1861 living and working at 3 Wellington Street, Cheltenham, Glos. By 1891 living and working in Kingston, Surrey. In 1861 mentioned as being honoured for the invention of ?Improvements in the construction of Drawing Boards?. Exhibited RBA, RHA.
1 : Lakeland Scene : 1859 : w/c : 35.2 x 57.6 : 1972.56.1.
2 : Mountains and Lake with Castle and Cattle : 1859 : w/c : 35.1 x 57.7 : 1972.56.2.
3 : Patmos, Dodecanese : 1860 : w/c : 10.5 x 32.4 : 1973.22.
4 : Ruin with Cottage and Figure : 1861 : w/c : 10.7 x 32.8 : 1966.53.
5 : Mountain Scene : 1861 : w/c : 20 x 48.4 : 1948.6.
6 : View near Cheltenham : 1861 : w/c : 20.2 x 48.2 : 1957.13.
7 : Highland Landscape : 1862 : print, lithograph : 27.2 x 59.6 : 1936.59.
8 : Mountainous Lake Scene : 1873 : w/c : 10.4 x 28.3 : 1978.974.
9 : Mountains and Lake with Cottage and Figure : 1873 : w/c : 11.1 x 29.6 : 1978.973.
One thing is clear, the uncertainty of life as a Drawing Master!!
David Addison. November 2013..

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45 Comments

  1. DAVID FARREN
    Posted February 13, 2014 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Re Aaron Penley
    I am the Gt.gt,gt grandson of Aaron Penley. I too have been confused with E.A.Penley and A.E.Penley during my family tree searches.However, it is clear that there were two artists with the name Penley. He was the 4th son of WILLIAM PENLEY &FRANCES MARY ANN (nee Saulez) Aaron was the Drawing Master at Addiscombe: his brother William Henry Saulez Penley was also a drawing master. In the July 18th 1832 edition of the Morning Chronicle both were declared bankrupt. Listed as Stationers of Portsea, Southampton.Aaron married a Sheffield girl,Caroline Turner. They had many children but only three survived childhood.One of these was my Gt,gt,grandmother, Rose Caroline Penley. I hope this is useful
    Regards
    David Farren

    • Rosemary Frost
      Posted April 25, 2015 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Hi David,

      I brought a box at auction last year that contained about four generations of the Saulez family belongings. Unfortunately despite a large family, the Saulez side I think has died out as far as my mums ancestry research has allowed us to go. I am an antiques dealer but much prefer the research side to the buying and selling, I loved researching the Saulez family but unfortunately I have had all these belongings for over a year so am going to list them on eBay over the next few months. Before I do is there any information you would like to help with your family tree? The Saulez family was fascinating and I am a little jealous they are not my own family. Arthur Travers Saulez, Frances Mary Ann’s great great nephew, was a major during WWI and was unfortunately killed in the Battle of Arras. Although he didn’t receive any medals he got mentioned in dispatches twice and when his troops returned home they paid to erect a stained glass window in his honour. His uncle Seymour Unwin Saulez, Frances Mary Ann’s great nephew, served in Indian but also in Africa where he met Henry Stanley Morton and helped him to set up a settlement called Leopoldville.

      Sorry all fascinating things, please let me know if I can be of any help,
      Kind Regards
      Rosemary Frost

      • Rosemary Frost
        Posted May 8, 2015 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

        Dear John,

        Many apologies I have only just noticed your reply and luckily as I was just packaging the items up to sell to a dealer I know tomorrow. I would much rather that it stays within the family if at all possible, if you go to my website you will find my contact details http://www.flapperfortunes.co.uk if you could drop me an email or give me a call I can let you know what I have and send you photographs. I live in Bury St Edmunds so unfortunately Winchester is a little out of my way but I will hopefully be having a stall regularly at an antiques fair at Kempton Park from next Tuesday if you were interested in coming along to see the items in person? The Kempton Park fairs are the second and last Tuesday’s of each month.
        Kind Regards
        Rosemary

  2. Rom
    Posted April 20, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    David
    Are you located in the UK ? Are you aware of a painting Windermere by E. A.?
    Regards

    • DAVID FARREN
      Posted September 30, 2014 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      ROM,
      Yes, I’m in UK-no I’m not aware of Windermere by E. A.
      Regards

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  8. Barbara Hobbs
    Posted January 6, 2015 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    I came across your article on Penley artists when looking closely at a watercolour I bought many years ago bearing the signature E.A.Penley 1871. The background is of mountains and the foreground is of a cottage, person and lake with small sailing boat with white sail. I will more into this artist. Many thanks

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    I have two paintings, both signed ‘W & A Penley. 1826’. Could they be collaborative works by father and son?

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