The unusual composition of this naval battle scene leaves the tops of the masts of both ships severed by the upper limit of the canvas, while a great expanse of sea is included below the vessels.
This work was presented to the British Ambassador in Santiago by Juan Tonkin, Director of Compania Chilena de Electricidad, in 1925. It is one of two paintings of the Battle of Trafalgar by marine painter Thomas Somerscales. In his 1988 publication on the artist, Alexander Anthony Hurst commented in regard to the works:
'It might be said that a version of the Battle of Trafalgar is an exercise required by every British marine artist. Somerscales seems to have resisted it until almost the end of his life, since I know of no other canvases on this subject from his palette.'
Marine painter Thomas Somerscales was born in Hull; the son of a shipmaster. He attended Normal College, Cheltenham, before joining the Royal Navy in about 1862 to serve as a schoolmaster for seven years. Travelling with the Navy aboard the ‘Zealous’, he became ill at Tahiti and was sent ashore at Valparaiso, Chile. Here, he briefly worked as a drawing master for a local school before being sacked. However, he established a new school with two colleagues. He also produced paintings and from 1874 gave lessens in art to pupils in Valparaiso and Santiago. In 1892 he returned to the UK with his wife and four sons. He exhibited one painting at the Royal Academy in 1893. Although he made return visits to Chile, Somerscales died in Hull, aged 84.
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