Britain and the Sea: Maritime Drawings and Watercolors from The Huntington’s Art Collections

Nov. 3, 2012Feb. 19, 2013
Huntington Art Gallery, Works on Paper Room

An island nation, Great Britain has always had a strong connection to the sea. The tradition of maritime painting established itself in Britain with the arrival of the Van de Veldes, a father-son team of Dutch marine painters, at the court of Charles II in 1673. Alongside the rise of British nautical power, maritime painting became a valued specialization, and its practitioners often possessed a seafaring background. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, especially, saw plentiful demand for their services: British shipping reached its acme, generating great wealth through trade, while the Napoleonic Wars gave ample reason to celebrate the successful Royal Navy. At a time when British authority stemmed from its mastery of the sea, maritime art became an essential tool for shaping concepts of national identity. “Britain and the Sea” features fifteen rarely seen works from the permanent collection, by marine artists such as John Thomas Serres, Charles Bentley, and Samuel Owen. From documentary records of important battles to dramatic, romantic views of wind-tossed ships, the images on display in this exhibition reveal a nation passing from the threat of war to command a prosperous peace.

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