Storm at Mazatlan, Mexico, painted by Admiral Sir Edward Gennys Fanshawe, 1851. As usual, click on the images for a closer look – but expect this one to send a shiver up your spine!
A grant from the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation has allowed the National Maritime Museum to make part of its collection of 70,000 prints and drawings available online for the first time.
The newly digitised drawings are mainly by Royal Navy officers in the 18th and 19th centuries, and give a glimpse of tropical islands, exotic cities and indigenous peoples at a time when the ability to draw a landscape was not just a pastime but also a means of intelligence gathering.
Highlights from material recently added to the NMM’s online collection include over 100 working sketches by John Christian Schetky (1778-1874), an album of drawings by Gabriel Bray recording his voyage as second lieutenant of HMS Pallas to West Africa in 1775, and over 100 watercolours from albums by Admiral Sir Edward Gennys Fanshawe (1814-1906), covering his service in the Pacific from 1849-52, in the Baltic during the Crimean War, and in the Mediterranean.
Schetky and Bray’s works are very rare drawings of everyday shipboard life in the age of Cook and Nelson as well as some unique depictions of street-life ashore, while the much less well known Fanshawe was an amateur artist who recorded his varied and distinguished career with a skilled hand in highly finished watercolours.
The journeys Fanshawe depicts include an investigative diplomatic voyage during which he visited Pitcairn, where he met the last survivor of the Bounty mutineers, Susan Young, and heard first hand the account of how she killed the last Tahitian crew member with an axe during the island’s conflict; Fiji, where he drew what are possibly the earliest portraits of Seru Thakombau, founder of the modern state of Fiji; and Samoa, where his drawings of women show the enduring influence of English fashions on their Sunday-best costume.
The prints, along with commentary, can be accessed through the relevant pages of the museum’s website.