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Att. Clarkson Stanfield R.A. (1793-1867) - Wreckers off Fort Rouge, Calais
  • Att. Clarkson Stanfield R.A. (1793-1867) - Wreckers off Fort Rouge, Calais

    This watercolour is clearly linked to Stanfield's largescale oil painting titled 'Wreckers off Fort Rouge; Calais in the distance' from 1828. It was an early work by the artist which helped to establish himself within the art world with the work garnering an 'almost unanimously enthusiastic acclam. Even the reserved and astute critic of the Library of the Fine Arts remarked in 1833 that it was a work which Stanfield has not since surpassed. The Times perhaps best represents the consensus opinion:


    'Its troubled sea, its waves darkly and fearfully rolling, and the dense, black clouds which overshadow a sinking vessel in the distance are managed with inimitable force. The scene is one of awful desolation; and the mind shudders to see, in the midst of it, the wreckers pursuing their unhallowed avocation.'' (2nd February 1828) [1]


    Unfortunately, the oil was part of a railway accident in 1854 while being returned from an exhibition in Liverpool. It however most likely survived and was included in the 1979 exhibition on the artist. The composition was also used for a large scale engraving and Stanfield was known to have done watercolours too.


    Our work depicts the waves going in a different direction to the oil and the wreckers in the foreground are all slightly differently composed. This suggests it is not a direct copy from the original painting. Stanfield would often experiment with his compositions and this could very easily be an example of this. We contacted Bristol Museum & Art Gallery who confirmed the watercolour was exhibited. Further research could fully confirm the attribution, it is purely attributed due to the lack of a signature. However, the labels verso and the link to the large oil suggest the artist could easily be Stanfield himself.


    Medium: Pencil and watercolour with touches of bodycolour and scratching out on paper, 30 x 43.1cm, framed.


    Provenance: Bristol Art Gallery Exhibition 1906 (label verso, number 42); J.H. Howell Esq (listed on exhibition label as owner); W.H. Davies, Bristol (label verso); Private Collection, Gloucestershire.




    [1] Van der Merwe, P.T, 'Clarkson Stanfield 1793-1867', Exhibition Catalogue: Tyne and Wear County Council Museums: R. Ward & Sons, Gateshead (1979), p.95.


    Condition report: small amounts of foxing and a bit of fading obvious throughout the work. The frame has small chips as shown by the photographs. This frame is very likely the original that was used for the 1906 exhibition. There's a vertical paler coloured line obvious in the sky.

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