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John Warwick Smith, 1749–1831, British

Bay Scene in Moonlight

Watercolor over graphite on medium, slightly textured, cream wove paper
Sheet: 13 3/8 x 19 7/8 inches (34 x 50.5 cm)

Inscribed in black ink, lower right: "J. Smith 1787"

Signed in black ink, lower right: "J. Smith 1787"

Credit Line:
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Copyright Status:
Public Domain
Accession Number:
Drawings & Watercolors
Prints and Drawings
Subject Terms:
bay (body of water) | boats | child | clouds | lake | landscape | man | moon | nighttime | rocks (landforms) | ship | sky | woman
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Celebrated in his own time as one of the great innovators in the development of a national school of watercolor painting, Smith in his “Bay Scene in Moonlight” produced one of the very few nocturnes in eighteenth-century watercolor painting. Earlier examples are the various views by Paul Sandby of Windsor Castle on rejoicing night (three versions in the Royal Library). More likely models for Smith’s evocative nocturne are the paintings (and the prints after the paintings) of moonlight coastal scenes by the French landscape and marine painter Claude Joseph Vernet, which were often part of a set of landscapes or seascapes illustrating the times of day. The solemn stillness of Smith’s watercolor, however, seems to have less in common with the night pieces of Vernet than with the later Romantic paintings of the coast in moonlight by Caspar David Friedrich.

John Baskett, Paul Mellon's Legacy: a Passion for British Art: Masterpieces from the Yale Center for British Art, , Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT, 2007, p. 269, no. 58, pl. 58, N5220 M552 P38 2007 OVERSIZE (YCBA)

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