To the left is a marine print by Hollar; above is its dedication, with coat of arms and scrap of Latin. Below is one of Baston's emulations of the same. Claude and Hollar were more significant to Baston than van de Velde: their prints were more readily available. See here for more on Hollar, who produced at least 45 seascape engravings.

Thomas Baston
b c 1670-75 (?) --- fl 1695-1735 (?)

The reference books are silent on the life of Baston. Baston is not a common name. There was a Thomas Baston christened at Allhallows, London Wall, on 2 August 1691. His father was also named Thomas, and his mother was named Mary. Thirty-seven years later, on 25 October 1728, another Thomas Baston was also christened at Allhallows, London Wall; and his father was also called Thomas Baston. This time the infant's mother was also called Mary. Until someone knows better it seems reasonable to assume that here we have the printmaker, whose mother and wife were both called Mary. If the assumption is correct --- and it may not be --- then when Baston launched his series of engravings, in 1721, he would have been 30 years old.

This conjecture now proves to be completely mistaken. An item in the Calendar of Treasury Papers: 1697-1702, Jan 7th, 1702, has been drawn to my attention by Alison Barnes. This comes from Vol LXXVIII, no 6, p 554, and reads thus: "Petition of Thomas Baston to the King, showing that ..... by the King's order, through Major Gen Trelawny, he made a draught of the lighthouse on the Eddystone near Plymouth, which the King then had at Kensington, and that afterwards, by his express orders, a second draught of the same, much larger, and according to the new alterations, which were then made, in that lighthouse, together with the draughts of several of the King's ships of war, which after much pains and six months labour, he performed to general satisfaction, and delivered to the King at Hampton Court ..... for which he received no manner of regard or gratification, but was reduced with his wife and children to great want and poverty, Praying for the royal Bounty." The note says Baston was paid 30 on 29th Jan, 1702. It looks as though this Baston was born about 1670-75.

Alison Barnes also adds that "Thomas Baston at the same time begged the King to take into account the fact that 'his brother John Baston raised a company of foot in the late rebellion in Ireland, and built a small vessel called the Whitehall Yacht, which was put to the King's service in the late War, and he then served Queen Mary as secretary, but after her decease he had no care taken of him as her other servants had'. Thomas asks that some money may be given to John, therefore, but we are not told anywhere if he was, in fact, granted anything or not."

The hunt for Bastons, their life events and topographical origins, proceeds apace, but with minimal success. In passing, it may be noted that William Winstanley, in Lives of the English Poets, 1687, p 15, mentions a Robert Baston, a poet and playwright born near Nottingham, who lived in the reign of Edward II. The name is scattered over several parts of England, but mainly in Devon and Cornwall. There are also similar names found on the continent, and there has been a suggestion that the Baston who concerns us most was perhaps of Flemish origin. A John Burston is mentioned by Pepys, 18 February 1665: "Took my Lord Sandwiche's Draught of the Harbour of Portsmouth down to Ratcliffe to one Burston to make a plot of for the King and another for the Duke and another for himself --- which will be very neat". Other notes say that Pepys thought highly of (John) Burston's work, but without precise indication of what that work was.

Tho Baston Pinxt.                                                                                                                                   Tho Baston fecit
The ROYAL ANN, a first Rate Ship, Carrying 100 Guns and 780 Men.
Le ROYAL ANN, Vaisseau du premier Rang, portant 100 Pieces de Canon, et 780 Hommes
Printed for Carrington Bowles, next the Chapter House in St Paul's Church Yard, London.

Back to earlier print from same plate.

From the print above, and posted on the preceding page, it may be deduced that the Thomas Baston who was their author drew inspiration from an eclectic range of sources, primarily the seaport scenes of Claude Lorrain. His series of twenty-two capital ship portrayals are a novel mixture of Claude and Isaac Sailmaker. A pioneer is a man who can turn his hand to anything, who takes risks, is innovative, and explores uncharted seas. Baston shares these qualities with Monamy, and rightly deserves note as the native artist who first tapped into a new market, and expressed the average Londoner's pride in his navy. This has virtually nothing to do with the supposed "creation of a taste for maritime scenes by the van de Veldes", but arises naturally from the Londoner's vivid recognition that his future prosperity lay entirely in the hands of the mercantile fleet and its defence. It was sometimes said that "Trade followed the Flag": in fact, the opposite was true --- the flag followed trade, as a protection for merchant endeavour. See here.

In 1720, Baston was obviously much impressed by Claude, but it would be another 100 years before a British artist could attempt to rise to such a challenge. Turner's two mighty canvases, which were designed to match the master, The Rise of the Carthaginian Empire, and The Decline of the Carthaginian Empire, are dated 1815 and 1817. Turner left a large fortune that he hoped would be used to support what he called "decaying artists." With Horace Walpole's supercilious notice in mind, it may be supposed that in time "one Baston" also "decayed", along with Peter Monamy. For Turner, see Mark Harden and Carol Gerten-Jackson, here and/or here.

      claude lorrain      


kirkall prints

Baston's Englische Schiffe
back to baston 1
baston's sovereign
more on baston: october 2005
prints, prints, prints
mezzotints       line prints
monamy website index
Baston's sailors, going about their business


© Charles Harrison Wallace 2002
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