As two frigates (medium size, square-rigged warships) and a fishing boat negotiate the rough seas, grey clouds fill the sky above. In the distance, the shore at Rame Head - a headland on the Cornish Coast near Plymouth - can be seen.
This work was painted towards the end of the artist’s life, when he was severely disabled with arthritis. Despite his circumstances, marine painter Thomas Luny has expertly painted the choppy waters off Rame Head.
‘Frigates off Rame Head, Cornwall’ is a typical example of Luny’s work. An article published in 1886, titled ‘Thomas Luny, Marine Painter’ and written by the antiquary Robert Dymond, includes catalogue records for 295 paintings by the artist. Several of the works described have a similar composition to this painting, showing group of vessels negotiating rough seas. However, this particular work is not included.
Thomas Luny, marine painter, apparently studied with the artist Francis Holman in London. He exhibited mostly at the Royal Academy, where he showed his work every year from 1780 to 1793. He showed nothing after 1793 until 1802, when he exhibited 'Battle of the Nile', and then nothing until the year of his death, when he exhibited three pictures. It is possible that in 1793 he joined the Royal Navy to fight in the French Revolutionary Wars. Luny retired to Teignmouth in Devon, in about 1810, where he lived and worked for the rest of his life. In spite of being crippled by arthritis in both his hands and his legs for over 30 years he continued to paint assiduously and his total life's work is thought to have produced some 3000 pictures.
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