A diplomat and then a wine merchant, William Wyld was inspired by the example of Richard Parkes Bonington to become a watercolourist. His strongly coloured, virtuoso townscapes and landscapes proved highly influential in the development of watercolour in France.
The son of a businessman, William Wyld was born in London. He entered the diplomatic service, acting as Secretary to the British Consul in Calais, a position previously held by Louis Francia who, still living in Calais, gave him lessons in painting. Through Francia and John Lewis Brown, Bordeaux wine merchant and art collector, he was introduced to the work of Richard Parkes Bonington. Absorbing Bonington’s influence, he would, in turn, affect the development of watercolour in France.
In 1827, Wyld took charge of a wine business in Epernay, and there began to find patrons for his watercolours.
Exhibiting at the Paris Salon in 1831, he settled in the French capital two years later, and became a good friend of the artists, Camille Roqueplan and Horace Vernet. Almost immediately, he and Vernet travelled to North Africa, a journey that resulted in Voyage pittoresque sans la régence d’Alger pendant l’année 1833, a collaboration with the lithographer, Emile Lessore. Six years later, he also published twenty lithographs of Paris. While living in France, Wyld retained his British nationality, and exhibited in London from 1849, becoming an associate of the New Society of Painters in Water Colours in that year, and a full member three decades later. (The NWS became the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours in 1881.) He also showed work at the Royal Academy of Arts and the British Institution. Patronised by Queen Victoria, he was invited to Balmoral in 1852, and produced a series of watercolours of the area.