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John Thomas Serres, 1759–1825, British

A Hoy and a Lugger with other Shipping on a Calm Sea

Watercolor with pen and black ink on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 13 1/8 x 18 5/8 inches (33.3 x 47.3 cm)
Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
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From 1793 John Thomas Serres served as Marine Painter to King George III and from 1800 as Marine Draftsman to the Admiralty. In that role he was required to sail with naval vessels to sketch the coasts of France, Spain, and the Mediterranean to help the navy in its effort to contain Napoleon’s imperial ambitions. This watercolor could well have been made following one of these journeys, since the hoy and lugger are typical of the kinds of cargo and fishing boats that sailed in the same waters Serres traversed.

Gallery label for Great British Watercolors from the Paul Mellon Collection at the Yale Center for British Art (Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2007-07-11 - 2007-09-30)
Robert Cleveley (cat. 69) [B1975.4.1476] belonged to a family of marine painters. So too did John Thomas Serres. His father Dominic Serres, from a well off Gascon family, ran away to sea and arrived in England as Prisoner of war in the 1750s. After studying with the marine painter Charles Brooking, the elder Serres achieved considerable success in that line, becoming Marine Painter to George III in 1780.

Unlike Robert Cleveley, John Thomas Serres has no practical experience of ships and the sea. But he was a pupil of his father and, on his father's death in 1793, succeeded him as Marine Painter to George III. In 1800 John Thomas Serres was also appointed Marine Draughtsman to the Admiralty. One of his duties was to provide detailed elevations of the coastlines of Britain, France, and Spain. His View of Cornet, Guernsey, Channel Islands, with Shipping may be related to the production of these official coastal views. The more modest but also more charming A Hoy and a Lugger with other Shipping on a Calm Sea depicts two of the types of small vessels that plied the coastal trade around England and Holland in the eighteenth century.

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. 91 cat. no. 73

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