print after brooking, published as Night, dated 1756

brooking original oil




The pictures titled Night and a Ship on Fire are an extension, in a sense, of Moonlight. The painter's task was to represent objects illuminated and coloured by reflected light, either the light of the moon, itself shining by reflected light, or the light of a fire internal to the picture.

Some intellectual understanding of how light and vision function is useful. Studying Newton might be a help. Redgrave remarked that Monamy was "clever". A recipe for disaster in the upper circles of smart English society.


Here again are Brooking's first known painting, and Monamy's first datable burning ship, ten years apart.

I am suggesting that the production of a burning ship painting signalled the end of a marine genre pupil's apprenticeship: his dissertation, as it were, on the academic problems of recreating light and night on canvas in oil paint.

This was not the kind of schooling Scott underwent. Kingzett notes that Scott's picture, The Attack by the French Firerafts, at Quebec in 1759, is his "only known night piece", and is "a remarkable tour de force foreshadowing Wright of Derby's explosive Vesuvius pictures of the 1770s." Scott produced four variations.


Here again are the prints after Monamy's, Brooking's and Swaine's burning ships. The senses have been reversed, where necessary, for easier comparison.

Top, An early, but ineptly hand-coloured print after Monamy from 1745. The sky should obviously be black. Second, another of the same, with later ink colouring. Third, Swaine's print. The earliest imprint in my possession is inscribed Swaine invent. et delint, 1751. The same print, shown here, was re-issued forty years later, by Laurie & Whittle in 1794, and the inscription changed to Monamy pinxt, Swaine delin. In fact, the first inscription must be correct. Swaine's print pre-dates Brooking's, although Brooking most probably completed his first burning ship before Swaine. The print after Brooking, bottom, is from 1756, and the original is mature work.

Below is Turner's famous 1842 painting Burial at Sea, with the sense reversed. Personally I see a link between this work and the old prints after Monamy, Swaine and Brooking. Others may not.

On to Stormy Sensibilities
(Tate Gallery Illustrated Companion, 1979)

chronology & authenticity
brooking & monamy: fire       brooking & monamy: light
brooking & monamy: storms      brooking & monamy: various
monamy & brooking & van de velde: a squadron beating to windward
monamy & brooking & van de velde & south foreland & the downs
monamy moonlight oils
a century of moonlight
monamy website index

Signed Brooking, 9½ x 29¼, see Joel p.138

Unsigned. 28 x 36. Attributed to Brooking. Exeter.



© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2003, 2007, 2013, 2015
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