The early ship's portraitist William G. Yorke was born in New Brunswick in 1817. As an "artisan artist" Yorke was a highly skilled shipwright who painted ships to supplement his income. In 1848 he moved to Liverpool, which was rapidly becoming the hub of ocean going commerce. He became so successful as a marine artist he gave up shipbuilding to focus exclusively on his sea paintings.
The father of marine artist William Howard Yorke, he enjoyed great success in Liverpool. In 1871, he immigrated to America, moving to Brooklyn where he specialized in ship and yacht portraiture. His volume of work is composed of sail and steam vessels, tugs and numerous private yachts from the heyday of American yachting.
Later, Yorke lived and painted aboard a small boat and would move his "floating studio" to different parts of the harbor, using numerous addresses. His paintings, dating earlier than many mainstream ship painters, depict the great vessels that sailed the world's oceans during his lifetime. He is noted for paying great attention to sea and sky and the accurate detailing of his ships.