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 the date ? that I realised that there were probably more than one Penley ? for one date was after Aaron Edwin had died, listed as 1870. 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..


  1. Posted October 6, 2014 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    If you desire to grow your familiarity just keep visiting this
    website and be updated with the latest news update posted here.

  2. Sergey
    Posted September 9, 2017 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    Good afternoon. I accidentally got a small watercolor with the signature of Aaron Edvin Penley.
    I can send you a photo.
    With respect Sergey

  3. Jennie Fitzgerald
    Posted August 24, 2020 at 12:47 am | Permalink

    Hi there – I’m researching info regarding a watercolour, which we think is by Edwin Aaron Penley. It looks as if it is an Italian lake scene. We would be grateful for any help with indentification.

    Many thanks,
    Jennie Fitzgerald

  4. Gloria Williams
    Posted March 20, 2021 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    I bought an oil painting in an Antique shop in Gloucester, Virginia. The artist signed it A. Penley. The scene is that of a small old cottage. A woman with a red shirt is coming out the door. Another woman is standing by a small body of water and a hen and chickens are running in the yard. Can you tell me if the artist is Edwin Aaron Penley. I understand he was a warercolorist.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>