Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting

Exhibition Website

Sep 15 2016 - Dec 4 2016

This is the first major exhibition to survey the tradition of marine painting that was inextricably linked to Britain’s rise to prominence as a maritime and imperial power, and to position the genre at the heart of the burgeoning British art world of the eighteenth century.

The demand for marine paintings—and the prints made after them—in the eighteenth century, from ship launches to shipwrecks, naval battles to serene coastal views, reflects Britain’s absolute dependence on the sea. In an age when Britain claimed to rule the waves, marine paintings found a new importance and helped the island nation tell its stories of triumph and disaster. 

This exhibition will reconstruct the full array of representational modes—pictorial, planimetric, narrative, and plastic—that were deployed throughout the century to represent the maritime exploits of the nation. Drawn primarily from the collections of the Yale Center for British Art and augmented by spectacular loans, Spreading Canvas will demonstrate that marine painting was both ubiquitous and fundamental to eighteenth-century British culture.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

Whether you go or not, the exhibition catalog,  Spreading Canvas: Eighteenth-Century British Marine Painting, takes a close look at the tradition of marine painting that flourished in 18th-century Britain. It shows how the genre corresponded with Britain’s growing imperial power and celebrated its increasing military presence on the seas, representing the subject matter in a way that was both documentary and sublime. Works by leading purveyors of the style, including Peter Monamy, Samuel Scott, Dominic Serres, and Nicholas Pocock, are featured alongside sketches, letters, and other ephemera that help frame the political and geographic significance of these inspiring views, while also establishing the painters’ relationships to concurrent metropolitan art cultures. Featuring a wealth of beautifully reproduced images, the publication demonstrates marine painting’s overarching relevance to British culture of the era.

  • British
  • 18th Century
  • Maritime

Exhibition Venues & Dates