John Tyley was an Antiguan artist who worked as a botanical illustrator in the late 1700s, but not much is known about his life. He was a native Caribbean man of mixed-race origin and was an extraordinarily gifted artist. His talent is even noted by William Bentinck, the governor of Saint Vincent from 1798-1802, and wrote that Tyley was unique in his artistic talent in all of Saint Vincent and perhaps all of the West Indies.
He was hired by Alexander Anderson to create botanical illustrations for the St. Vincent Botanical Garden in the late 1700s. Anderson was a Scottish naturalist, and was the superintendent of the St. Vincent Botanical Garden from 1785 until shortly before his death in 1811. Tyley resided on the Botanical Garden estate during his employment with Anderson. Shortly before Anderson’s death, Anderson was seeking a position for Tyley in England, but what happened to Tyley afterwards is unknown.
His botanical illustrations are housed at Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation, Carnegie Mellon University and The Linnean Society of London. Tyley signed over 50 of these illustrations which can be directly attributed to him, but there may be many of his work that are unsigned and unattributed. Above, is his painting of a man seated beneath a breadfruit tree. More examples of his work are included below.