William G.Yorke was born in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1817. In about 1855 he and his family moved to Liverpool. In Canada he had been employed primarily as a shipwright, but on his emigration to Liverpool he turned to marine art, developing contacts with a number of British and North American clients.
Yorke’s eldest son William Howard (1847-1821) also went on to become an accomplished ships’ portraitist. The son’s artistic talents and ability to support the family led to William G.Yorke emigrating to New York in 1871. From his contacts made in Liverpool with American shipowners and masters he had a steady stream of work when he set up his studio in New York.
There he became a popular figure with the yachting fraternity, who commissioned him to paint their yachts and races, frequently depicting the background as identifiable landmarks in Long Island Sound and the Hudson River. One of Yorke’s pupils in his studio, Mary, whom he later married, often helped her husband on his later works painted during the 1880’s. It is believed that he died in New York about 1888.
Examples of Yorke’s paintings are in the collections of the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John, the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, the Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Connecticut, and the New York Yacht Club.