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Creator:
John Harris, 1770–1834, British
Title:

Men of War Lying off Sheerness

Date:
undated
Medium:
Watercolor, pen and black ink, gray ink, gouache and graphite on medium, moderately textured, beige, laid paper
Dimensions:
Sheet: 16 1/4 × 21 1/4 inches (41.3 × 54 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Watermarks: J Whatman (Letters & Fleur-de-lis similar to Shorter 197)

Signed, in pen, with black ink, lower right: "John Harris pinxt"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1975.4.1999
Classification:
Drawings & Watercolors
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
marine art
Associated Places:
Kent | Sheerness | United Kingdom
Access:
View by request in the Study Room
Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:10303
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Marine drawing in eighteenth-century Britain was largely a specialized production aimed at an expert audience. The marine draftsman was required to provide a documentary record of ships, naval engagements, harbors, and coastlines for a knowledgeable public of active and retired seamen. As John Thomas Serres (cats. 72-3 [B1975.3.194] [B1986.29.549]) observed in his Liber Nauticus and Instructor in the Art of Marine Drawing (1805), proficiency in the art demanded both a working knowledge both of the construction of ships, what Serres termed "naval architecture," and of seamanship. Consequently, it was common for the marine draftsman or painter to have turned to art after an actual involvement in the building or sailing of ships.

Like his father and his twin brother, Robert Cleveley became a marine painter after working in the Royal Dockyard at Deptford. The Scottish-born William Anderson was likewise a shipwright before becoming an artist. John Harris, like the Cleveleys, grew up in the neighborhood of the Deptford dockyard. His boyhood surroundings inspired an early interest in shipbuilding, manifested in the building of a model sloop, though apparently not in any actual employment in the shipbuilding trade. As an artist, Harris pursued marine drawings as but one of several specializations. He worked as a book designer and illustrator and natural-history draftsman.

With its documentary nature the marine watercolor of the period was the nautical equivalent, in both function and technique, of the topographical watercolor. The combination of precise pen outlines and delicate washes of color that characterize the "stained" or "tinted" drawings of the topographical tradition was equally well-suited to the depiction of ships and rigging. Robert Cleveley's brother John studied with the topographical artist Paul Sandby, who was one of a number of watercolorists employed by naval and military schools to teach their young cadets the art of drawing.

Scott Wilcox

Wilcox, Forrester, O'Neil, Sloan. The Line of Beauty: British Drawings and Watercolors of the Eighteenth Century. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2001. pg. 88 cat. no. 71

Scott Wilcox, Line of beauty : British drawings and watercolors of the eighteenth century, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2001, pg. 88, cat. no. 71, NC228 W53 2001 (YCBA)


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