Stanley Royle

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Stanley Royle (1888–1961) was a post-impressionist English landscape painter and illustrator who lived for most of his life in and around Sheffield (England) and Canada. A member of the Royal Society of British Artists, he was inspired by sweeping landscapes, sea and snow scenes.

Early life and career[edit]

Stanley Royle RCA (Royal Canadian Academy of Arts), RBA (Royal Society of British Artists), ARWEA, the grandfather of Anthea, Stephen and Lucy Copleston was Born at Stalybridge, Cheshire - he had three sisters and a brother. In 1893 the family moved to Ecclesfield, a rural outlying district of Sheffield in South Yorkshire where his father became the stationmaster at Ecclesfield railway station.

His elder cousin, Herbert Royle, who was already a highly successful landscape painter, encouraged the young Stanley to pursue his interest in art as a career and in 1904 Stanley began studying at the Sheffield Technical School of Art. In 1908, he gained a scholarship, which enabled him to continue his studies at the art school. His earliest inspiration was his tutor, Oliver Senior, Painting Master at the art school, of whom he had a very high opinion, and who exhibited at the Royal Academy.

His first employment was as an illustrator and designer for local newspapers. In 1911 he began exhibiting professionally in the UK and in 1912 the family moved to a house in Shiregreen, another rural suburb of Sheffield. His first major success was to have three paintings accepted by the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition in 1913.

The Royal Academy[edit]

As a young man he was a keen ice skater; on one visit to the ice rink he met Lily Goulding and subsequently, in 1914 they married, living initially with his parents in Shiregreen. In 1913 he had painted Spring Morning Amongst the Bluebells which depicts his young wife-to-be standing amongst the bluebells and birch trees of Woolley Woods in Sheffield which were local to his home. He painted other versions of this subject, in which there is no figure, but this one, which was accepted by the Royal Academy in 1914 was and remains the main example of this genre. Their daughter, Jean Royle, was born in 1915 at Ridgeway, near Sheffield. She inherited this painting and it remained in her possession until 1992 when she sold it at auction.

Stanley Royle suffered from Bright's disease and this prevented him from joining the forces in the First World War. In the same year that his daughter was born, his oil painting Ploughing] (A Fresh Morning: View of Mosborough from Renishaw)" was accepted by the Royal Academy.

In 1916, the family moved to Priest Hill Farm on Quiet Lane in the Mayfield Valley, outside Sheffield on the edge of the Derbyshire moors. Stanley Royle was successful in having two major works accepted by the Royal Academy that year. His election to associate member of the Royal Society of British Artists in 1918 indicated his increasing importance as a landscape painter.

By 1920, he had been elected a full member of the RSBA (Royal Society of British Artists) and was teaching part-time at the Sheffield School of Art. The family spent their summer holiday at Ravenglass in Cumbria which Jean, then five years old, always remembered with great delight.

In 1921, after having been married for 7 years, he was inspired to paint Morning on the Derbyshire Moors]'. In this oil painting he captures the remoteness of the moorland landscape by using the figure of his wife in the foreground to contrast against the wild and open spaces of the moors. His technique is impressionistic with almost a pointillist effect combined with broad sweeps of colour. The dress and bonnet Lily is wearing were made for her by her sister Frances who was an excellent seamstress. Mike Tooby, Professor of Art and Design at Bath School of Art and Design writes eloquently and with insight about this painting . His article is available to read on the official Stanley Royle website:

Although Stanley Royle often used female figures within his compositions these were usually secondary to the landscape, which formed his chief interest. However, the three paintings Spring Morning Amongst the Bluebells, 'The Lilac Sun Bonnet' and The Goose Girl' all show single female figures prominently displayed in the foreground, whilst in later works figures give way in importance to the landscape.

The four major views of Sheffield[edit]

In 1922, he received a prestigious commission from Frederick Horner, a local art dealer, to paint four large views in oils of Sheffield. This quartet of paintings forms a significant part of the collection of Stanley Royle's work in Museums Sheffield. In 2005 one of this group, 'Sheffield from Wincobank Wood' was included in the Tate Modern's exhibition 'A Picture of Britain'.

Living in an outlying rural district with limited public transport did not prevent Stanley Royle from undertaking large, ambitious canvasses of significant landscapes, as shown by his study 'Burbage Valley' Museums Sheffield. Sometimes he would walk, but often cycle, to his chosen viewpoint, with all his painting equipment and canvas strapped to the side of his bike! Whilst painting 'Burbage Valley' he hid the canvas in a cave in order not to damage the wet paint by transporting it home. The subject of the much acclaimed oil painting 'The Goose Girl' now in the National Gallery of Ireland was his wife Lily. Her health was sometimes poor which prevented her from posing. On these occasions her younger sister Frances took her place, which is why this figure differs subtly from that of the figure in 'Spring Morning amongst the Bluebells'. The setting is almost certainly Whitely Woods as by then the family lived close by. It was painted in the early 1920s and was exhibited in both Glasgow and Liverpool in 1924. This work had been attributed to the artist William Leech, until Jean Royle sold her aforementioned painting 'Spring Morning Amongst the Bluebells' in 1992. Not until then was it recognised that the same artist must have produced both paintings. In 1925, after resigning from the RSBA, Stanley Royle was elected an associate member of The Royal West of England Academy. His success as a painter made it possible for the family to move to a newly built house at Park Head Crescent in Ecclesall and by 1930 he co-founded of the Sheffield Print Club.

"The Depression" and Canada[edit]

1930 and 1931 were particularly hard financially, and in order to survive Royle took a post as illustrator with the "Sheffield Independent" Newspaper. For several years he had privately taught a pupil who was the Principal of the Nova Scotia College of Art, Canada. She visited Britain each summer, and eventually persuaded Royle to emigrate in December 1931, with his wife and daughter, to take up a post as a lecturer in painting there (the "Great Depression" had made it impossible for him to make a living in the England). His daughter, then almost 17 years old, had already begun studying fine art at Sheffield Art College, and was in her second year there, when her studies were disrupted by the emigration.

Initially Stanley Royle taught at the Nova Scotia School of Art. However, although he was much admired by both his contemporaries and his students, his relationship with the Principal was never easy and in 1934 he was dismissed. The family returned to Britain and Sheffield in the summer of that year, but in 1935 he was offered a professorial post at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, and so returned to continue teaching in Canada. The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia now have one of the largest public collections of Stanley Royle's work. In 1936 he was made an Associate Member of the Royal Canadian Academy.

During his time in Canada he produced dynamic studies in oils of the Rocky Mountains and dramatic seascapes and coastal scenes which, with his snow and moorland scenes in Britain, form some of his finest works. Throughout his years in Canada he returned frequently to Europe during the long summer vacations, where he conducted painting tutorials on the Isle of Sark, and in Dorset and Derbyshire.

The Royal Canadian Academy of Fine Arts[edit]

Snow scenes were amongst Royle's favourite subjects because of the light reflected off the snow and the subtleties of colour thus created. He considered the winter landscape to have more colour than at other times of the year. His daughter described how he would wear knee-breeches, and knee length lace-up boots, which were warmer than Wellingtons, to paint 'plein-air' snow scenes.

Stanley Royle became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1942 and in 1945 he and his wife returned to the UK where he sojourned with his daughter and family in Suffolk before settling in north Nottinghamshire. Many of his paintings emphasise the sky by making use of a low horizon, so Suffolk, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire provided ideal subjects.

He and his wife returned to live permanently in Britain in 1945. On his return he acquired a motorbike and had removable carriers built for the pillion seat to accommodate his canvasses and paint box. Throughout the remainder of the 1940s he continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy and was elected president of the Sheffield Society of Artists in 1950. The Paris Salon awarded him the Silver Medal in 1951 and the Gold Medal in 1955. During this decade he visited Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall and again Brittany as he found the lighting effects of maritime subjects particularly inspiring. Brittany was his last overseas painting expedition.

Early in 1961, he was diagnosed with liver cancer and he died in March of that year. A memorial service was held at Worksop Priory, Nottinghamshire and his grave is in one of the town's cemeteries.

In 1962, the Graves Art Gallery, part of the Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust, held a major retrospective exhibition of his work.


Stanley Royle had a full and academic knowledge of every aspect of painting and it is this, combined with his extraordinary ability to capture the atmospheric quality of natural lighting on the landscape that makes his paintings so satisfying to the viewer. He thought nothing of pitching his easel in the middle of a stream and standing knee deep in water, whatever the weather, if that gave him the view he wanted to capture. He did not like the harsh lighting effects of the midday sun as it flattened the subject, but preferred early morning or mid to late afternoon and evening light.

In conjunction with the 1988 centenary travelling exhibition held in Canada, Patrick Condon Laurette, the Curator of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, published a book in 1989 entitled 'Stanley Royle (1888–1961)'. The next major publication solely dedicated to Stanley Royle's life and work was published in 2008, written by Timothy Dickson and published by Derwent-Wye Fine Art. It is an illustrated publication which also includes a full catalogue raisonne of the artists work. Further publications include 'Our Home and Native Land - Sheffield's Canadian Artists' by Mike Tooby, published in 1991 by the Sheffield Arts Department with funding from the Arts Council. Mike Tooby was the Keeper at the Mappin Art Gallery, Sheffield. Subsequently he became the Curator at the Tate Gallery, St. Ives, Cornwall and is currently (2015) Professor of Art and Design at Bath School of Art and Design. His publication explores the work and relationships of Sheffield's Canadian Artists which included Arthur Lismer and Frederick H. Varley as well as Stanley Royle.

In 1995, his daughter Jean Royle bequeathed her collection of Stanley Royle paintings to the Sheffield Galleries and Museums Trust in order that future generations would have the opportunity of viewing, in one venue, the artist's work. This is of particular value since so many of his paintings are privately owned: however several British Collections own his works including the galleries at Rotherham, Oldham, Derby Art Gallery and the Glasgow Museum.[1]


  1. ^ Stanley Royle, BBC, accessed August 2011

Further reading[edit]

  • Patrick Condon Laurette. Stanley Royle, 1888-1961 (Art Books Intl Ltd., 1989)
  • Timothy Dickson. Stanley Royle - A Catalogue of His Works (Derwent-Wye Fine Art). ISBN 978-0-9559965-0-4
  • Mike Tooby. "Our Home and Native Land - Sheffield's Canadian Artist"(Sheffield Arts Department,1991) ISBN 0-86321-139-9

External links[edit]