The Monmouth takes the Foudroyant. What precedents inspired this painting?

Swaine followed Monamy
and not van de Velde

Why do I think this work isn't like the paintings of the van de Veldes? Why do I think it is "better" than anything painted by Scott? Why do I think Swaine is vastly more indebted to Monamy than to van de Velde? The NMM says (or said) that Swaine's painting of the Monmouth takes the Foudroyant "was an interpretation of ideas made popular in England by Willem van de Velde the Younger's"; and also that Swaine was "greatly influenced by the example of Dutch 17th-century masters, from whose work he regularly drew." I strongly disagree with these unfounded remarks, and base my dissent on the evidence accumulated below.


Comment circa 1820. Click.

Marine painting was not made popular by van de Velde, but first by Isaac Sailmaker, 20 years ahead of the van de Veldes, then by Thomas Baston, and then by Peter Monamy. The vehicles for the widespread popularisation of the genre were first Baston's prints and then Monamy's shop-window paintings. Kirkall's expensive mezzotints "after Vanderveld" pre-dated Monamy's mezzotints and prints, but post-dated Baston's prints, some of which were also engraved by Kirkall. English marine painters had very easy access to prints, some access to original drawings and shipwright's draughts, and much less access to oil paintings. Line and other engravings after van de Velde did not start to trickle out to a wider market until about 1753. Monamy's relatively minor collection of drawings by van de Velde appears to have been extensively sold off by Swaine in 1750, very probably to Scott (who had a very large collection of van de Velde drawings) and other painters, and perhaps to a few judicious connoisseurs. Swaine modelled himself ever afterwards, in virtually everything he produced, extremely closely on Monamy. I can see no evidence that he "regularly drew" from the work of Dutch masters. Here are my ideas and interpretation of the visual ancestry of Swaine's painting.

monamy oil: swaine print

monamy oil: swaine print

monamy oil: monamy oil reversed

monamy print: monamy print

monamy oil reversed: swaine oil reversed

monamy print: swaine oil reversed

monamy oil: swaine oil reversed

Swaine's picture is much more mature than Monamy's late naval actions, which in my view grow out of his early ship portraiture. But this advance by Swaine, ten years after Monamy's death, is not at all a simple matter of backward reference to the van de Velde manner. Rather, it appears to spring from a marriage of the Monamy battles and the strong ambience of his moonlight paintings. Swaine, in my eyes, has creatively combined and developed these themes into a personal conclusion of his own. It is aesthetically far more pleasing than any similar conflict depicted by Scott, who took infinite pains but never achieved fluency. See the group below.

monamy oil swaine oil on copper

monamy oil swaine print

monamy oil swaine print

monamy print swaine print

More Monamy/Swaine links below. Swaine never seems to me to be displaying any interest in van de Velde, but is drawing and composing entirely in the Monamy vein.

monamy sketch swaine sketch

monamy oil swaine oil

monamy print swaine print

monamy print swaine print

monamy print swaine print

monamy print swaine oil

Except for the Swaine storm scene, which is signed and dated 1763, the dates attached to the oil paintings are of the action depicted. The pictures may have been painted one or two years after the event. The prints are dated according to their inscriptions, except for the small Swaine moonlight print, which is given a notional date of 1765. I see virtually no direct influence of any Dutch marine painters in these depictions, other than that they all show ships on water, which is a limiting factor in this genre, oddly enough. However, I do see very clear kinship between the Monamys on the left and the Swaines on the right, and it is not merely a matter of composition and draughtsmanship, or a deficiency of either. It is the predominance of felt reality.

In action, atmosphere and composition; in the seamanlike handling of the lugger; in its treatment of the waves, the coastline, the background shipping, the advancing vessel to the right of the picture, the Swaine sketch below shows the palpable influence of Monamy, and only contains a distant memory of van de Velde. In fact, I think Swaine tried to avoid echoes of van de Velde. The left detail inset comes from the van de Velde at Dulwich, c 1665, see here; the right inset comes from A View of Elizabeth Castle, Jersey, signed Monamy. Which painting bothers me: it seems more Swaine than Monamy. Here.

A Lugger Close-hauled in a Strong Breeze. 10½ x 15¾, pen and wash, signed Swaine.
National Maritime Museum. From Masters of the Sea, Quarm & Wilcox, p 73

Action between Bon Homme Richard and Serapis, Joseph Roux, 1781.
Joseph Roux of Marseilles, 1725-1793, was an instrument seller and hydrographer, who also painted.
Who was he most indebted to: van de Velde, Monamy or Swaine?

timeline 4: 1755 onwards
francis swaine       swaine & van de velde
phlegmatic performances
monamy print-based index
monamy website index

© Charles Harrison Wallace 2003, 2013, 2015
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