The Balnaves Gift
House boats, The Spit, Sydney Harbour (1937) and From Balmoral looking towards North Head (1935) are fine examples of Will Ashton’s most favoured subjects, a sun-drenched Sydney Harbour.
John William Ashton was born in York, England in 1881, to the prominent artist and teacher, James Ashton. The family emigrated to Adelaide in 1884 where James Ashton established the Norwood School of Art. Following his schooling Will Ashton worked alongside his father in his studio and became friends with fellow students Hans Heysen, Hayley Lever and Gustave A. Barnes. As a young man he travelled abroad and studied at Julius Olsson’s School of Landscape and Sea Painting at St. Ives, Cornwall. In 1902 he moved to Paris to study at Académie Julian in Paris, mixing with fellow students including Emanuel Phillips Fox, David Davies, James Quinn, Ambrose Paterson and Hans Heysen. Apart from his formal studies, Ashton sketched at weekends in Paris streets or on the banks of the River Seine.
From an early age the artist gained critical acclaim, being selected for exhibition with the Royal Academy. From that time onwards 'J. William Ashton’ dropped his first name and signed his work 'Will Ashton’ to avoid confusion with his father and also the Australian artist Julian Ashton.