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Admiral Sir Robert Waller Otway (1770-1846)

Oil paintings

Object connections:

Collection Oil paintings, Fine art
Gallery locationNot on display
PeopleDepiction: Otway, Robert Waller
Provenance: Otway, Arthur

Object details:

Object ID BHC2926
Description A three-quarter length portrait, slightly to the left, showing Otway in his admiral’s full dress uniform of 1843–47 pattern wearing the ribbon and star of the GCB; his right hand rests on a cannon and sea and sky form the background. Robert Waller Otway entered the Navy as a midshipman on 15 April 1784, serving in the ‘Elizabeth’, guardship at Portsmouth. From 1785 until 1789 he was twice in the Mediterranean in the ‘Phaeton’ and then the ‘Trusty’. He then served in the Caribbean and off the coast of Africa until he was promoted to the brig ‘Falcon’ as lieutenant on 8 August 1793. In December that year he moved to the 98-gun ‘Impregnable’, flagship of Rear-Admiral Benjamin Caldwell. When the ship’s fore-topsail-yard was damaged during the Battle of the Glorious First of June 1794, Otway and a midshipman, Charles Dashwood, went aloft and secured it so the ‘Impregnable’ remained under control. Caldwell publically thanked him for his action. He followed Caldwell to the West Indies in the ‘Majestic’ and in January 1795 he gained command of the 16-gun sloop ‘Thorn’ (he was confirmed in his rank as commander on 7 August). In the ‘Thorn’, he captured the 18-gun sloop ‘Courrier National’ that May but was wounded in the 35-minute action. He was promoted captain on 30 October 1795. Further commands and action followed in the Caribbean and his considerable success made him rich. He was also popular with his men. As Sir Hyde Parker’s flag captain in the 98-gun ‘London’ at the Battle of Copenhagen, it was Otway who carried instructions to Nelson, indicating he should ignore a command to call off the action if he saw any chance of success. For the rest of the war, he was principally employed in the Mediterranean. Otway was promoted rear-admiral on 4 June 1814. He was commander-in-chief at Leith from 1818 to 1821. He was made a KCB on 8 June 1826 and was appointed commander-in-chief of the South American station, returning home in 1829. He was then promoted vice-admiral on 22 July 1830 and created baronet on 15 September 1831. Otway was groom of the bedchamber to William IV and Queen Victoria. He was promoted admiral on 23 November 1841 and made a GCB on 8 May 1845. Three of his sons entered the Navy. The eldest, Robert, was killed falling from his horse in Hyde Park in May 1840; the middle son, Charles, was lost in the ‘Victor’ during a hurricane in the West Indies in September 1842; the third, George, inherited his father’s baronetcy and the fourth, Arthur, succeeded as 3rd baronet after George died without male issue. There is another portrait in the collection identified by an old label as showing Otway as a captain (XXX0608) but -given his different appearance- probably in error for William Albany Otway, who was not an immediate relative. The portrait has usually been called 'British school' but a public discussion on the Art UK website (2016-17) has identified another version either still or formerly at Stanford Park, Leics., and suggested a provisional attribution to John Lucas, though this remains for further debate.
Date made circa 1845

Artist/Maker British School, 19th century
Lucas, John
Credit National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London, Greenwich Hospital Collection
Materials oil on canvas
Measurements Painting: 1275 mm x 1017 mm x 19 mm
  • Admiral Sir Robert Waller Otway (1770-1846) (BHC2926)
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