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
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.