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Creator:
Robert Cleveley, 1747–1809, British
Title:

An English Man-of-War Taking Possession of a Ship

Date:
1783
Medium:
Watercolor, pen and black ink, graphite on thick, slightly textured, cream laid paper
Dimensions:
Sheet: 13 1/2 × 19 3/4 inches (34.3 × 50.2 cm)
Inscription(s)/Marks/Lettering:

Watermark: Heawood 1849

Signed and dated in pen and black ink, lower left on wreckage: "Rt. Cleveley del 1783"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
B1975.4.1476
Classification:
Drawings & Watercolors
Collection:
Prints and Drawings
Access:
Accessible by request in the Study Room [Request]
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Link:
https://collections.britishart.yale.edu/catalog/tms:8041
Export:
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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.

Eleanor Hughes, Spreading Canvas : Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting, Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, 2016, p. 275, 277, cat. 138, ND 1373.G74 S67 2016 (YCBA)

Scott Wilcox, British watercolors, drawings of the 18th and 19th centuries from the Yale Center for British Art , Hudson Hill Press, New York, 1985, no. 12, pl. 12, ND1928 W533 1985 (YCBA)


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