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A Smuggling Lugger Chased by a Naval Brig

Fine art

Object connections:

Collection Fine art, Oil paintings
ExhibitionsThe Atlantic: Slavery, Trade, Empire, Trade and Commerce
Gallery locationAtlantic Gallery (Floor plans)

Object details:

Object ID BHC1113
Description (Updated, October 2017)This seascape of a smuggler being chased by a brig at night uses established theatrical means to create a sensation of adventure for the viewer. Across dark waves, which are lit dramatically out of tempestuous clouds, a smuggler is trying to escape. In the background, topographical features – which may relate to the British Channel coast – can be seen. Here, a fire reveals further raid-related action on the beach. In the late 18th century and early 19th century a scene like this fulfilled the audience’s appetite for romantic and adventurous narratives, also reflected in contemporary literature. Buttersworth painted may variations of this moonlight subject, nearly all with the same background elements of a headland and lighthouse (possibly Beachy Head) and a fire with some further activity ashore: see, for example, BHC1109. Moreover, other minor painters working in the same general manner also appear to have copied his example and it is sometimes not easy to tell who they are by. Other names recorded doing them are Francis Hustwick of Hull and the little-known W.H. Doust. Thomas Buttersworth (1768–1842), like many other British marine painters, was a seaman who recorded his experiences in paint and charcoal. Several of the 27 watercolours by him in the NMM are mounted on sheets from 18th-century printed signal and muster books. In 1795 he is documented as enlisting on board HM receiving ship ‘Enterprise’ in London. He served on the ‘Caroline’ during the Napoleonic Wars and was invalided home from Minorca in 1800. Paintings such as the ‘Nelson's Inshore Blockading Squadron at Cadiz, July 1797’ (BHC0499) probably reflect events he witnessed. Following his return to London, he was appointed Marine Painter to the East India Company and added commissioned ship portraits to his already prolific output of naval battle scenes.
Date made 19th century

Artist/Maker Buttersworth, Thomas
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 305 mm x 405 mm; Frame: 420 x 512 x 67 mm
  • A Smuggling Lugger Chased by a Naval Brig (BHC1113)
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