"There are some curious men who form an idea of a master, by the sight of three or four of his pictures; and who, after this, believe they have a sufficient authority to decide what his manner is; without considering what care the Painter took about them, and what age he was of when he drew them. ..... There is none also that had not his beginning, his progress, and his end; that is to say, three manners."

Roger de Piles, The Art of Painting, Chap XXVIII, part II. Translated from the French and first published in England in 1706.

Kensington Palace
and contents: May 24 1899

*** *** ***

A Century of Painters of the English School by Richard Redgrave CB RA (sometime Surveyor of Her Majesty's Pictures and Art Director of the South Kensington Museum), and co-authored with Samuel Redgrave, was published first in 1866, and a shortened second edition was brought out in 1890. The 1866 edition, Vol I, contains the following, p.91:

In marine painting, a branch of the landscape painter's art which might have been supposed to appeal most directly to the national tastes, two foreigners, the Vandeveldes, found much employment under the last two sovereigns of the Stuart family, and fostered a few pupils and followers. Peter Monamy (B. 1670, D. 1749), if not their pupil, was an imitator of their art, which his own has been said to have equalled. His execution is good, and his knowledge of art considerable. He has an excellent traditional method, with little professional artifice. There is a picture by him at Hampton Court (No.1080), which, though much cracked, is beautifully painted, showing a fine quality of texture, with great precision of touch, the calm plane of the ocean receding into the extreme distance, without that set scenic effect of passing cloud shadows, which even the best masters have used to obtain the appearance of recession or distance: this work well deserves notice, and might puzzle the best painters of such subjects to rival. Samuel Scott (B. 1710, D. 1772), was another artist of the Vandevelde school, whom Walpole calls "the first painter of his age --- one whose works will charm in every age;" adding, "if he was second to Vandevelde in sea-pieces, he excelled him in variety". He was indeed a good draftsman, and painted some tolerable topographical views, as well as marine pieces, but his works do not show any original treatment; they are now little known or esteemed, and he is remembered chiefly as one of Hogarth's companions, in his jovial water-party to Gravesend, in 1732.

It seems odd to the uninitiated that marine painting should be "a branch of the landscape painter's art", since it is infinitely more difficult to paint the sea than the land, but let it pass. Samuel Redgrave reverses Walpole's opinion of Scott, and repeats in his Dictionary of Artists of the English School, 1878, that Scott's "works are not much esteemed in the present day". Scott and Monamy seem to be at either end of a see-saw of opinion: if you're for the one, you can't be for the other. The sailor, however, whose blood and sweat underpinned the ease of the landed gent, and who might be considered a suitable arbiter, is for Monamy.

To the right we have Samuel Redgrave's dictionary entry for Monamy. The Jersey birth, the ten year error of its date, the poor parents, and the house-painter, all roll on unchecked. Perhaps the story was too good to spoil. Redgrave's account of Monamy showing his paintings in his shop window comes from Wine and Walnuts, 1823, by W.H.Pyne (1769-1843), and is thus highly credible. But the Painter-Stainers become the Paper-Stainers. The reputed excellence of Monamy's calms persists. Redgrave is clearly pro-Monamy; and he had read J.T.Smith's Nollekens and His Times, but much of what he says is hearsay, since he has little first-hand knowledge of more than about two works.

In 1894 the massive Dictionary of National Biography provided the following account, based almost entirely on Walpole and Redgrave, although Vertue is also quoted as a source.

MONAMY, PETER (1670?-1749), marine painter, born of poor parents about 1670, was a native of Jersey. He was sent to London when a boy, and apprenticed to an ordinary house-painter on London Bridge, but having a real aptitude for painting he devoted himself to drawing the shipping and other similar subjects on the Thames. He based his manner on the two William Van de Veldes, and soon became known to the seafaring community. His paintings were marked not only by good execution, but by close and accurate acquaintance with all the minor details of shipping. His colour was, however, somewhat tame and ineffective. There are two pictures by him at Hampton Court, and a large sea-piece by him is in the hall of the Painter-Stainers' Company, to which it was presented by the painter in 1726. Monamy painted parts of the decorative paintings at Vauxhall, including some representing Admiral Vernon's victories. He also decorated a carriage for the ill-fated Admiral Byng. He resided during the latter part of his life on the riverside at Westminster, where he died early in February 1749 in poor circumstances, as most of his work was done for dealers. His portrait, painted by H.Stubly, was engraved in mezzotint by J.Faber, junior, in 1731, another, engraved by Bretherton, is in Walpole's 'Painters'. An interesting picture of Monamy showing a picture to a patron, Thomas Walker, is in the possession of the Earl of Derby, and was formerly at Strawberry Hill; the figures were painted by William Hogarth, and the sea-piece by Monamy. Monamy also executed a few etchings.

Epigram by the Reverend Joseph Trapp (1679-1747)
on the gift of a library by George I to Cambridge University

The King, observing with judicious eyes
The state of both his universities,
To Oxford sent a troop of horse, and why?
That learned body wanted loyalty;
To Cambridge books, as very well discerning
How much that loyal body wanted learning.
Reply by Sir William Browne (1682-1774)
The King to Oxford sent a troop of horse,
For Tories own no argument but force:
With equal skill to Cambridge books he sent,
For Whigs admit no force but argument.

walpole's anecdotes

Colonel Grant's Pronouncement
comments on NMM biography of Monamy
more twentieth century howlers
reputed excellence in calms
introduction       background
article 1981       article 1983
detailed monamy chronology
artistic range
monamy website index

© Charles Harrison-Wallace 2013
all rights reserved

mail here