turner & monamy


The need to expand on previous pages suggesting a relationship between Monamy and Turner arises, first, following a very reasonable question courteously put to me a short while ago, as to whether there is any firm evidence that Turner was actually aware of Monamy's paintings; and, second, as a result of an attentive reading of the catalogue accompanying the exhibition entitled Turner's Early Seascapes: The Sun Rising through Vapour, mounted by The Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, 24 Oct 2003 to 25 Jan 2004.

monamy firelight 16 x 24: detail

monamy sunlight 13½ x 18 signed

monamy moonlight 17 x 32 signed: detail

monamy storm 30 x 42 signed: detail

monamy shipwreck

The former point demands a thorough, considered answer, but I will first address the text of the exhibition catalogue.

This is a very conscientious study, which provides a great deal of invaluable information on Turner, his early interest in marine painting and the influences he absorbed.

Monamy is mentioned twice: once on p 18: "The paintings of the Van de Veldes were widely imitated, for example by Peter Monamy (1681-1749) who decorated supper-boxes in Vauxhall Gardens with marine pieces", and on p.56: "The Thames-side dockyards provided an important focus and source of subject-matter for a group of eighteenth-century marine painters that also included Peter Monamy (1689 sic -1749) and Samuel Scott (1701/2-72)."

These comments accurately recycle English art-historical orthodoxy. The rest of this website demonstrates how misguided they are, but we'll go over the matter again, since the catalogue was produced so very recently.

Monamy was not born in 1689, and the Thames-side dockyards did not provide "an important focus" for him, if, arguably and marginally, for Scott. This statement is untrue.

At left are five paintings by Monamy, which express the essentials of his personal oeuvre: firelight, sunlight, moonlight, tempest, and the vagaries of fate. No earlier painter addressed these themes so directly: and the pictures resemble work by the van de Veldes little more than any other forerunners.

These are, however, the basic themes addressed by J.M.W.Turner; and they may be thought of as typically characteristic of much English 18th century marine painting.

Monamy displayed four paintings at Vauxhall, shown below. They are very specific to their location, and otherwise rather unlike the rest of his work. To refer to these pictures in the same breath as the work of the van de Veldes is miles wide of the mark.

Top left, circa 1738, is a re-worked amalgamation of at least two old battle canvases by van de Velde. See here. Top right is a ballad illustration, circa 1738, quite unlike anything painted by van de Velde. Bottom left is a contemporary battle scene, circa 1740, possibly derived from an eye-witness sketch, original in conception and composition. Bottom right is a scenic theatre backdrop of the taking of Porto Bello, circa 1741, totally unlike anything at all by the van de Veldes.

hand-coloured prints of monamy's vauxhall pictures; originals probably about 55 x 95

monamy & turner: fishermen at sea

"It was probably in 1796 that [Turner's] first work in oil was shown ..... This was Fishermen at Sea ... Turner [was] following a fashion for moonlight and firelight subjects begun by two older men, Joseph Wright of Derby and P.J. de Loutherbourg. "

Turner began as a virtual apprentice, under Thomas Malton, painter of urban scenes in Westminster, and spent three years "copying the drawings of J.R.Cozens and other artists". Cozens was patronised by William Beckford, and Turner "stayed with Beckford at Fonthill" in 1799.

turner mezzotint & monamy drawing

1827 turner & monamy 1738

monamy & turner 1
monamy & turner 3

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