View of the Royal Dockyard at Chatham
Coloured engravingpublished 14 February 1775
About the work
This busy, detailed view shows Chatham Dockyard on the River Medway, in Kent. Ships are under construction in the dry dock and the Royal Standard is flying on the quayside. In the foreground, people load merchandise into a small boat.
This engraving by Conot was published in 1775. It is based on an oil painting in the Royal Collection, which Richard Paton exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1778 as ‘View of his Majesty’s dockyard at Chatham, and part of the river Medway, in the county of Kent’.
In the summer of 1770 landscape painter Thomas Jones recorded that ‘Paton was engaged in painting Views of the principle Dockyards, and [John Hamilton] Mortimer had undertaken to paint the figures – for this purpose, on 27th of this month [July], They both set off for Portsmouth.’
This is one of five views of royal dockyards executed by Paton and Mortimer. They were~presumably painted for King George III. The author, politician, and patron of the arts Horace Walpole recorded that, on 17 February 1775, Paton presented his pictures to the King at Buckingham House [Palace], including ‘two… being views of the royal dockyards at Deptford and Chatham; also prints finely engraved from the last-mentioned pictures by Messrs. Woollett and Canot.’
About the artist
Richard Paton, marine painter, was born in London and is said to have been discovered on Tower Hill as a poor boy by Admiral Sir Charles Knowles. Knowles took him to sea, after which he found employment in the Excise Office, where he was still working at the time of his death. The earliest evidence of Paton painting is the exhibition of two works by him at the Society of Artists in 1762. He continued to exhibit with the Society for several years, before resigning in 1771. Five years later, Paton began to exhibit at the Royal Academy, where he showed his work until 1780. In 1776, he was granted permission by King George III to paint the Royal Dockyards at Chatham and Deptford and the resulting paintings are now in the Royal Collection.
Engraver Pierre [Peter] Charles Canot is thought to have been born in France in c.1710; the brother of painter Philippe Canot. He was presumably in London by c.1735, when he produced hunting prints after paintings by John Wootton. A further set of prints, after marine works painted by Peter Monamy, were published in 1746. In 1758 he began a lasting collaboration with marine artist Richard Paton. The outbreak of the Seven Years' War brought commissions for depictions of the many naval engagements. He exhibited 19 works at the Society of Artists from 1760 to 1769 and was elected one of the original associate engravers of the Royal Academy in 1770, exhibiting there until 1776. Canot died at his home in Hampstead Road, in the winter of 1777-78.
Painter and etcher John Hamilton Mortimer was born in Eastbourne, Sussex; the son of a mill owner and customs officer. In 1756/7 he entered the studio of Thomas Hudson and later worked under Robert Edge Pine. Mortimer sketched at the Duke of Richmond’s sculpture gallery, St Martin’s Lane Academy and Shipley’s drawing academy. His success in winning premiums for history painting (1763, 1764) launched his career. He exhibited at the Society of Artists (1762–77), becoming Director (1768), Vice-President (1770) and President (1774–75). In the 1770s he painted scenes of witchcraft, monsters and bandits. He also painted literary subjects and illustrated books. Mortimer became an associate member of the Royal Academy in 1778. He died aged just 38.