Art Wednesday: William Anderson, Scottish Painter

Self-Portrait William Anderson c. 1800 Oil on canvas, 61 x 54 cm National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Self-Portrait
William Anderson
c. 1800
Oil on canvas, 61 x 54 cm
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

William Anderson was born in Scotland in 1757, though the precise details of date and place are elusive. He trained initially as a shipwright, but by the age of thirty was an accomplished and skilled marine painter and had settled in London. He seems to have applied himself to the study of the Dutch Old Masters of the Van de Velde school, since he produced numerous small works on panel which are strongly evocative of that style.

The Capture of Fort Saint Louis, Martinique 1795 Oil on canvas, 91 x 127 cm National Maritime Museum, Greenwich On 5th February 1794, Sir John Jervis and Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey, arrived at Martinique and by 20th March the whole island, with the exception of Fort Bourbon and Fort Royal, had submitted. On 20th March Fort Louis, the chief defence of Fort Royal was captured. Meanwhile the boats captured Fort Royal and two days later Fort Bourbon capitulated.

The Capture of Fort Saint Louis, Martinique
1795
Oil on canvas, 91 x 127 cm
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
On 5th February 1794, Sir John Jervis and Lieutenant General Sir Charles Grey, arrived at Martinique and by 20th March the whole island, with the exception of Fort Bourbon and Fort Royal, had submitted. On 20th March Fort Louis, the chief defence of Fort Royal was captured. Meanwhile the boats captured Fort Royal and two days later Fort Bourbon capitulated.

An English 3rd-Rate Ship of the Line in Three Positions - Oil on canvas, 84 x 130 cm Private collection The painting depicts an English 3rd-rate ship of the line (74 guns) in three positions off Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa, flying the Royal Nay ensign. The popularity and prestige of the large two-decker 74-gun Ships of the line ("74") reached its peak during the French Revolutionary War when the British found that not only did they sail better than the stately three-decker but that by superior gunnery and training their two-deckers could be a match for any enemy warship, even three-deckers of over one hundred guns. Napoleon Bonaparte was sent to St Helena in the Northumberland 74 after he had surrendered to the captain of Bellerophon 74. For years the very words seventy-four were synonymous to the British public with an invincible naval supremacy.

An English 3rd-Rate Ship of the Line in Three Positions

Oil on canvas, 84 x 130 cm
Private collection
The painting depicts an English 3rd-rate ship of the line (74 guns) in three positions off Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa, flying the Royal Nay ensign.
The popularity and prestige of the large two-decker 74-gun Ships of the line (“74”) reached its peak during the French Revolutionary War when the British found that not only did they sail better than the stately three-decker but that by superior gunnery and training their two-deckers could be a match for any enemy warship, even three-deckers of over one hundred guns. Napoleon Bonaparte was sent to St Helena in the Northumberland 74 after he had surrendered to the captain of Bellerophon 74. For years the very words seventy-four were synonymous to the British public with an invincible naval supremacy.

Anderson first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1787. He seems to have been on the periphery of artistic life in London: he was a pall-bearer at the funeral of Giuseppe Marchi, Reynolds’s favorite assistant, and in 1797 he was an unsuccessful candidate for Associate Membership of the Royal Academy. He seems to have had no part in the artistic controversies of the day.

His regular Royal Academy exhibitions continued annually until 1811, and then intermittently until his last in 1834. His best work was executed in the years 1790-1810, when the demand for marine paintings, during the Napoleonic Wars, was at an all-time high.

Anderson painted many of the naval battles of the period, often commissioned by serving officers, and his work shows a meticulous attention to nautical detail allied to an accurate draughtsmanship and lively coloration. At this period, he may be considered one of the leading marine artists of his generation.

Shipping in a Calm Sea off the Coast 1803 Oil on oak panel, 22 x 30 cm Private collection

Shipping in a Calm Sea off the Coast
1803
Oil on oak panel, 22 x 30 cm
Private collection

Shipping on the Thames off Deptford c. 1825 Oil on panel, 32 x 43 cm National Maritime Museum, Greenwich The painting depicts a frigate in the foreground, either drying its sails or preparing to come alongside in a light breeze. More ships can be seen alongside.

Shipping on the Thames off Deptford
c. 1825
Oil on panel, 32 x 43 cm
National Maritime Museum, Greenwich
The painting depicts a frigate in the foreground, either drying its sails or preparing to come alongside in a light breeze. More ships can be seen alongside.

Anderson and his wife Sarah were great friends of the landscape painter Julius Caesar Ibbetson who had also been trained as a shipwright. Towards the end of his career, Ibbetson moved to Yorkshire, and it seems likely that Anderson visited him there.

Certainly, Anderson was a considerable influence on the development of marine painting in the port of Hull, where a lively school developed in the early years of the 19th century, most notably in his encouragement of the best painter of that school John Ward (1798-1849).

On the Web: 

William Anderson

Crash

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