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Lord Howe on the Deck of the 'Queen Charlotte', 1 June 1794

Oil paintings

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Object ID BHC2740
Description This commemorates Lord Howe's victory over the French off Ushant, known as the Battle of the Glorious First of June, 1794, a title it owes both to being fought over 300 miles out to sea and to the name by which it was publicly celebrated at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, coined by the playwright R.B. Sheridan. Howe is second from the left in the group on 'Queen Charlotte's' quarter-deck, standing full-length facing to the right with his body slightly to the left, in admiral's full-dress uniform, 1787-95, and wearing a cocked hat. Although he is shown in uniform this was not how he appeared during the battle, in which he was reported as wearing an old civilian coat and a knitted woollen cap, his face blackened with powder smoke. He holds a drawn sword in his right hand and gestures with his left. To the left, the Captain of the Fleet, Sir Roger Curtis, stands half turned to the right, leaning on a cannon bearing the name 'Queen Charlotte', with a speaking-trumpet in his right hand. He wears the full-dress uniform of a commodore, 1787-95, the same as a rear-admiral's, which he was entitled to wear as the flag captain to the Admiral of the Fleet. Two other sailors are positioned beneath him and since the picture was subsequently cut down their figures have been trimmed off. The main focus of the painting in the centre is the group around the dying Lieutenant Nevile (not Neville) of the Queen's Regiment, fatally wounded when a cannon ball from the 'Jacobin' struck the sword he was holding. It shattered and drove part of the hilt into his side, indicated by his blood-stained waistcoat. Walter Lock, a naval lieutenant in the blue jacket, lifts Nevile by the shoulders. To the left and centre of this group, Captain Tudor and Major Isaac, both kneeling, of the Second Queen's Regiment and the Queen's Regiment assist. This military contingent was embarked, as sometimes the case, to make up for a deficency of Marines. Standing on the right the 'Queen Charlotte's' flag-captain, Sir Andrew Snape Douglas, in captain's full-dress uniform of over three years, 1787-95, has incurred a head wound. His left hand holds the wound on his forehead; his right hand rests on his drawn sword, and a lieutenant standing behind him supports him. Assisting him, to the far right, stands midshipman Graham Hammond, portrayed full-length to the left in midshipman's uniform, 1787-1812, wearing white trousers and with a speaking-trumpet under his left arm. He was the son of Sir Andrew Hammond, and aide-de-camp to Douglas. The action of the fleet has been framed in the background between rigging to the left and a draped sail to the right, creating the effect of a tableau. In the distance ships fire at each other and men are blasted out of the water. On the left is a stern view of 'La Juste', 80 guns, which was subsequently captured, flying the French ensign and the signal for close action at the mizzen-topgallant masthead. This ship was subsequently captured. Further in the distance, the 'Brunswick', 74 guns is shown in action with the 'Vengeur du Peuple', also 74 guns. In the centre of the picture, the 'Royal George', 'Gibraltar' and 'Glory', together with other ships, are shown engaging with the French, whose 'Vengeur' and 'Sans Pareille' appear between clouds of smoke. Uniform details are accurately portrayed, such as the red and black jackets of the military and the blue and gold of the Navy, as are weapons, ships, and other details. Mather Brown travelled to Portsmouth to sketch the 'Queen Charlotte' and the officers. He made careful drawings and measurements, and studied the captured French ships. The painting was popularly exhibited by Daniel Orme in Old Bond Street in 1795, complete with a key, prior to his publication of a large print from it that October. Significantly it was believed to be the first time that portraiture had been introduced into a naval historical picture, on the model set by West 'Death of General Wolfe' at Quebec in 1759, painted in 1771. The published print (NMM PAH7879) shows that the canvas has at some point been cut down on all four sides. This accounts for the truncated figures to the left and right and has the effect of propelling the viewer immediately into the action. The artist was an American-born painter who worked in England. Initially he was a free student of Benjamin West and was then admitted as a student to the Royal Academy in January 1782 where he showed 80 paintings altogether. Despite his phenomenal early success, Brown fell on hard times and was disinherited by his father. He then concentrated on creating large unsaleable religious and historical subjects. In 1809 Brown left London to live and work in Bath, Bristol and Lancashire. He returned to London in 1824 and died there in poverty, in a room crowded with unsold paintings.
Date made 1794, circa

Artist/Maker Brown, Mather
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Caird Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 2590 mm x 3657 mm; Frame: 2865 mm x 3845 mm x 120 mm
  • Lord Howe on the Deck of the 'Queen Charlotte', 1 June 1794 (BHC2740)
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