Battle of Trafalgar

  • About the work
    Country: Japan
    City: Tokyo
    Place: British Embassy

    'Battle of Trafalgar' by Robert Strickland Thomas (1787-1853) shows the naval battle which took place during the Napoleonic Wars on 21 October 1805. Under Admiral Nelson in HMS Victory, the British fleet defeated a combined French and Spanish fleet, just west of Cape Trafalgar, a headland in south-west Spain. The battle ended the threat of a French invasion of England and established British naval supremacy until the First World War. 

    The artist of this work joined the Royal Navy in 1805 but did not participate in the Battle of Trafalgar. He painted this picture several years after the event. It shows part of the British fleet lined up in formation in order to attack enemy lines at right angles. This tactic, devised by Nelson, was an important element in the British success. 

  • About the artist
    Robert Strickland Thomas entered the Royal Navy as a seaman aboard the ‘Princess Charlotte’ frigate in 1805. He was promoted to Midshipman and may have been taught to paint by the captain of the ship, George Tobin, an amateur painter who later retired to Teignmouth, South Devon, to paint with Thomas Luny. Robert Strickland Thomas took up painting to supplement his income at times when he was on half pay. He became Master’s Mate in the sloop ‘Brisk’ (1807-13), before joining the frigate ‘Creole’ to become Acting Lieutenant. He was confirmed as Lieutenant in 1815, but left the navy after contracting a disease, which left him deaf.
  • Explore
    Materials & Techniques
    canvas, oil, oil painting
  • Details
    Battle of Trafalgar
    Oil on canvas
    height: 99.00 cm, width: 170.00 cm
    Purchased from the Parker Gallery, March 1957
    Sold through Sotheby's, London, in c.1956-57 (Lot 133); with the Parker Gallery, London; from whom purchased by the Ministry of Works in March 1957
    GAC number