This seascape shows British and Spanish ships engaged in the Battle of St. Vincent which took place on 14 February 1797. The British naval victory became a popular subject for British marine painters and was recorded in many oil paintings, watercolours and prints of the period. This dramatic and lively impression of the engagement by English painter Charles Martin Powell owes a debt to Dutch marine painting, looking back to examples by artists such as Hendrik Cornelisz Vroom.
Born in Chichester, Charles Martin Powell was a self-taught artist and was also employed for a time as a sailor. He painted chiefly Dutch style seascapes, including some historical scenes, on a small scale. Powell exhibited 22 works the Royal Academy and eleven at the British Institution in London. He lived at a series of London addresses including locations in Haymarket, Paddington and Soho. In August 1812, ‘The London Gazette’ records Powell as an inmate of the King’s Bench Prison, Southwark; presumably a penalty for unpaid debts. He died in poverty at about the age of 50, leaving a wife and eight children. Today, examples of his work are in the collections of Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead, and the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.
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