s All At Sea Part 2 - Hull Museums Collections

All At Sea Part 2

John Ward

One of the most famous and outstanding painters to emerge from the simple background of vessel portraits was John Ward. Ward was the son of a master mariner and was influenced by paintings that he obtained by the Scottish born artist William Anderson. Under this influence Ward's paintings depicted the hustle and bustle of Hull's river, harbour and docks. He created a unity in his compositions where the foreground and the background are given equal importance and all of which are bathed in a subdued light.

He also painted whaling scenes with remarkable serenity. Probably his best and most memorable painting is 'The Return of the William Lee' which illustrates the end of the whaling period in Hull and an era in Hull's economic history.

Ward died in 1849 but his influence was still visible in the work of his imitators and pupils until almost the end of the century, notably in the works by William Griffin, Thomas Binks and W.F. Settle.

End of a Century and a New Beginning

As the century progressed artists developed a more romantic outlook and storms, sunsets and shipwrecks grew in popularity, replacing the need to represent ships with such accuracy. Depictions of plucky vessels and last minute rescues like 'The Lame Duck' by Thomas Somerscales also became popular; typifying the British imperial superiority that would later suffer a massive blow during the Great War.

During the Second World War artists such as Eric Ravilious took to the sea under the Government's Official War Artists scheme where they recorded the troops, the devastation and the battles on land and sea. Most of the work is quickly sketched with pencil, crayon or watercolour making for portable and rapid sketching. Ferens holds a large collection of work from this period. Mainly on paper, they also testify to the importance of the sea through boatbuilding, dock scenes and naval bases.

Post War Marine Art

In the post war period artists have continued to take the sea as their inspiration and within the Ferens' collection it is possible to trace through these works some of the radical changes in style since the 1950s. Some artists such as Michael Ayrton, Donald Hamilton Fraser and Keith Vaughan have expressed responses to the sea in abstract form whilst others like, Will MacLean and George Fullard use objects associated with or taken directly form the sea. In contrast the traditional approach to marine painting can still be found in the work of David Curtis.

Ferens Art Gallery and Marine Paintings

It was not until the appointment of Vincent Galloway as curator of the Ferens Art Gallery in 1928 that attention turned to the acquisition of marine paintings, and of works by artists of the Hull school in particular. Until then, marines were greatly undervalued and acquired by museums only for their maritime or social history interest. The first John Ward painting was acquired in 1936 for ten guineas. Since that time the Ferens has developed its collection of marine art into one that traces many of the most significant developments in European marine painting from the 17th century to the present day.