Early C18th Marine Painting
and the emergence of the English School

Part One: Painter & Patron

This conversation piece, datable to about 1730, shows Monamy displaying a painting to Mr Walker. The sea calm on the easel was painted by Monamy and is signed by him. Following Paulson, it can broadly be interpreted as the painter offering the vista of a romantic escape from the cell-like confines of his room. Many other questions arise, however. Why was this picture painted? Austin Dobson, in William Hogarth, 1907, p. 202, erroneously assigns it a date of 1740, and says it was done for Mr Walker. He gives no authority for this statement, and it seems an odd work for a connoisseur to have commissioned.

The picture fits a well-known theme --- The Painter and his Patron. Above are two famous examples, by Bruegel and Courbet. Bruegel's prod-nosed spectator is fumbling at his purse; and Bonjour, Monsieur Courbet needs no further comment. Below we see Monamy sandwiched between these two images, spanning 300 years. In my view, the English piece should be recognized as of equal importance in English art history.

Special notice should be taken of the two little paintings hanging on the wall in the background. I recently read a comment somewhere saying that these pictures are "Dutch". They are not Dutch, but identifiable very specifically with Monamy, and express his interest in light: particularly firelight and moonlight. These themes occur repeatedly in his work, and are developed with variations in numerous canvases by him. The themes are followed and further expanded by other English painters throughout the C18th.

The background pictures may well have been painted by, as is now believed, Gawen Hamilton; but finally we have the easel painting, which is signed by Monamy, lower left. This is often thought of as more typical of Monamy; but in my view his reputation for "excellence in calms" has been misleadingly over-stressed, perhaps partly as a result of this picture.

Much of the fascination that this conversation piece holds for me lies in the hint that Monamy is here having to pander to the taste of the connoisseur. Mr Walker exemplifies the type of customer that consistently attracted the contempt of William Hogarth.

Why did a marine painter, particularly a Londoner born and bred, feature so prominently at this point in time? An answer is provided in Part 2. Click on link below.

part one: painter and patron
part two: sea trade & sea power
part three: virtuosi & walpole
part four: monamy's legacy

post mortem

A Conference Paper: January 2005
Reputation & Reality

monamy website index

mail here

© Charles Harrison Wallace 2004, 2015
all rights reserved