William Lee-Hankey was a British painter and illustrator. He specialized in landscapes, character studies and portraits of pastoral life and in particular studies of mothers with young children.
Lee-Hankey was born in in Chester, England, and worked as a designer after leaving school. He studied art in the evenings at the Chester School of Art, under Walter Schroeder, and later at the Royal College of Art in London. Lee-Hankey was heavily influenced by the work of Jules Bastien-Lepage, a French painter who was closely associated with the beginning of the ‘Naturlism’ movement in art.
From the early 1890s Lee-Hankey exhibited at numerous and notable art galleries, which included the Leicester and Lefevre Galleries, the Royal Academy, the Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolours, the Royal Institute of Oil Painters as well as the Royal Society of Painter-Etchers and Engravers/Painter-Printmakers. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1896 and in 1899 he became a member of the Royal Institute and was President of the London Sketch Club from 1902 – 1904.
He relocated to France in the early 1900’s, painting many of his works in Brittany and Normandy. From 1904 until well after World War I, maintaining a studio at the Etaples art colony.
Lee-Hankey’s depictions of peasant life soon brought him international recognition. Writing in The Studio (Vol. XXXVI, No. 154, Jan. 1906) A. L. Baldry commented that, “He (Lee-Hankey) is in his water-colours an absolute purist; he paints entirely with transparent pigments, and never has recourse to opaque colours; his brushwork is broad and confident – free, on the one hand, from affectation of showy cleverness, and, on the other, from niggling minuteness or over-elaboration; and he does not insist, as is the fashion with many present-day painters, upon lowness of tone.” It was, however, his etchings that cemented his reputation as one of Britain’s leading artists at the turn of the 20th century.
He was drafted into the Army during World War 1 serving in the Artists’ Rifles from 1914 – 1916 before returning to painting at the close of war in France. The work that was produced during his time in France mainly consisted of French harbour scenes and country life, which provided him with a notable reputation. After witnessing the effects of the German invasion of France and Belgium in 1914, Lee-Hankey’s work began to focus on the French refugees whose lives were rarely depicted in artistic circles.
Lee-Hankey’s work is represented in collections both in England and abroad, with works in the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum as well as several British provincial galleries. His work is also exhibited in galleries in Budapest, Belfast and Vienna. In 1936 he became a member of the Royal Society of Painters in Watercolors, and was elected president in 1947.
William Lee-Hankey died in London, Feb. 10, 1952.