Leslie Wilcox (1904-1982)


Leslie Arthur Wilcox, RI, RSMA was highly skilled maritime artist whose work achieved great recognition in his lifetime which led a number of commissions for both Royal and museum clients in his native Britain. While he is best known for paintings in oil, Wilcox was also a watercolorist, illustrator, poster artist, marine model-maker and author.

Wilcox was born to a working-class family in Fulham, the youngest of five children. He left school at 14, and shortly thereafter won an art competition in a national newspaper with a watercolor drawing of an aircraft. The win led to his first job in an advertising studios in the Strand, London. He would eventually set up a studio in Holborn with two artist friends, where all three worked on illustration and children's comics.

As it became clear that Britain was heading for war, Wilcox decided to volunteer for the navy in the late 1930's and there too his talents were recognized and he was assigned to the Naval Camouflage unit at Leamington Spa, where he spent the rest of the war making model ships and testing camouflage designs.

After the war his illustration work dried up, but his focus on his maritime works in oil led to interest and a growing clientele. In 1947, Wilcox was elected a member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists in and in 1953 he received a commission from the Master of Trinity House to paint the triumphal return of the Queen from the Commonwealth Tour, with the Royal Yacht Britannia passing under Tower Bridge in London. This painting was presented to Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 and it subsequently hung over the fireplace in the drawing-room of the Royal Yacht until the ship was decommissioned. The work remains a part of the Royal Collection.

With this Royal success, Wilcox's career flourished, and he went on to receive commissions from noted shipping companies including that of Aristotle Onassis along with doing works for major British retailers Fortnum and Mason and Liberty and Company.

Wilcox was for some years Honorary Secretary of the Royal Society of Marine Artists and a member of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colors. Today his works are in many important collections around the world including several works in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. Before his passing in 1982, he wrote and illustrated two books on maritime history: Mr Pepys' Navy and Anson's Voyage."

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