said to be signed and dated 1720

PHASE TWO: 1720 - 1731

Provided the signature and date on the above painting are certifiably pukka, it would appear to establish the first clear indication of a "van de Velde", or perhaps a generally "Dutch", style beginning to have an influence. On the basis of the date given, I see this as a key painting in determining the artistic development. The palette and high colouring remain distinctively different, but the composition is familiar. Nevertheless, the paintings falling within this middle decade still show a very wide range of manner. It is perhaps useful to group the pictures into several stylistic strains.

1723   ----   1724   ----   1726

Dutch, or van de Velde, manner

The above three pictures recall the words of honest George: "Imitations of other famous masters of paintings in this manner ----- VandeVelds &c by constant practice he distinguisht himself and came into reputation." Their style seems to me fairly indeterminate Dutch, especially the first, dated 1723. The royal occasion dated 1724, one of many such, comes about mid-way between earlier, cruder versions, dating shortly after the accession of George I, and the later much more sophisticated examples, some conjecturally associated with the accession of George II, of which the picture in the Royal Collection is the best instance. All the royal occasions are imbued with an extra injection of English patriotism, and latent Whig support for the Hanoverian succession, in opposition to the Stuarts.

These three very closely related "Royal Occasions", all datable to the early or mid-1720s, are discussed with others here.

The above painting, when I first recorded it dated 1726 --- a date which seems to have since disappeared --- in my opinion shows the development of a more delicate style. It also shows an increasing interest specifically in the dramatic effects of light. The drawings of the Younger van de Velde consistently note the direction of the fall of light, but the paintings show little response, in my view, to the emotional impact of moonlight, sunrise or sunset. In this romantic, pre-romantic or emotional category I would put one of the paintings in the NMM, which is generally highly admired for the sensitivity of its composition, colouring and handling of sunlight. E.H.H.Archibald dated this to about 1725, and for once I am in reasonable agreement. It may perhaps be later than 1725.    

Flagship becalmed at Sundown. 21 x 43, signed P.Monamy.
Reproduced in Country Life, May 28, 1959.

The two paintings below, a pair, appear to be of the very greatest interest. Only noted recently, they appear to fit the sequence and development discernible for the 1720s. Unless some reason should arise for retracting this assessment, these are exactly the kind of works on which Monamy would have built his growing reputation. They also demonstrate a highly personal manner, notably the decorative use of colour and interest in sunlight, especially in the lower of the two, which markedly separates his work from that of the van de Veldes.

signed and dated 1727/8, lower left

signed, lower left: both paintings measure 18¼ x 31½

Men o' War becalmed, Sunset. 12 x 18, signed P.Monamy.
Exhibited: Ferens Art Gallery, 1951; Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 1963
Sold, Sotheby, 18th November 1981, lot 84

The above painting also seems to me to show the later, consistently increasing interest in the effects of sunlight. Archibald's comment, that compositions looking into the setting sun were "not a device Monamy commonly employed", seems perfectly inexplicable. See the painting dated 1732, here, or other treatment of sunlight, here.

unsigned: painter-stainers' hall 1726

signed and dated 1728

The ambition to emulate, and even outdo, van de Velde, seems to have intensified in the five years 1726-1730. These paintings, at left, are perhaps an indication of this drive. In my view, as speculated here, the virtuosi and cognoscenti saw to it that a local, home-grown marine painter was not going to succeed.

At the same time, a mixture of about three other distinct styles or manners appear to have co-existed with the "Dutch" tradition, showing, in my opinion, virtually nothing of this frustrated attempt.

These categories are: a panoramic style in depicting battle scenes and port views, which owes nothing at all to van de Velde, but is based on an old tradition, as practised, especially, by Isaac Sailmaker. This manner appears to feature in Monamy's output first in about 1725, is developed and considerably refined during the decade following, and persists up to 1745. Examples are shown here  

signed and dated 1725

Third, what might perhaps be called an exotic style, featuring Mediterranean vessels, and introducing foliage and trees in a markedly non-Dutch manner.   

book illustration 1729

signed and dated 1730

There are several of these paintings, which also tend to include castles and forts, of a somewhat decorative and often fanciful character. The direct source is difficult to establish, but no doubt research into a wider range of precedents than the marine school will discover parallels. Vernet is the name perhaps most strongly associated with this type of scene, but his dates, 1714-1789, prevent him being considered a mentor for Monamy. What about Claude?    

The Royal Caroline. 38 x 39. Indistinctly signed. A very improbable Monamy.
Perhaps the same artist who produced the gondola picture: here.

The combination of foliage and moonlight is transitional to the final category, below.

Finally, themes strongly and personally identified with Monamy, what I would call the Marque Monamy subjects of moonlight, and the almost Gothic feeling embodied in the numerous burning ships. These themes are pointedly indicated by Gavin Hamilton in the conversation piece, 1729-1731.  

conversation piece background

for moonlight paintings see here

for burning ship paintings see here

These pictures strongly suggest the deliberate development of a vein which differed markedly from the paintings of the van de Velde school. It appears to begin in the mid-1720s, and continues from then on until the painter's death. It was followed, with some devotion, by Brooking, Swaine, Loutherbourg, and other marine artists, until it finds its full expression in the paintings of Turner. Later followers, somewhat in decline, include Pether and John Moore of Ipswich. See here.

moonlight paintings are discussed here

the more delicate style of the mid-1720s. see lighthouses here

on basis of subject, as well as style, dated to about 1727
for more storms, see here


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