As black clouds fill the sky, two gulls fly low over the choppy water. Beyond them, three boats are struggling in the stormy conditions to enter Catwater, an estuary of the River Plym within the harbour of Plymouth. One crew member has fallen from the larger vessel to the left and is lifted by the crest of a wave. To the right of the composition, we see the 24-metre high outcrop known as Mount Batten, situated on a peninsula of the bay called Plymouth Sound (or The Sound). Mount Batten is named after naval officer and politician William Batten, who was responsible for fortifying the tip of the peninsula. On top is the Mount Batten Tower, a 30-foot high artillery tower built on the headland during the Civil War. Originally designed to accommodate ten guns on its roof, it was equipped with two Quick Firing guns during the Second World War.
Henry Andrews Luscombe was born in Plymouth; the son of a coal merchant. He painted the shipping in the Sound, exhibiting eleven scenes at the Royal Academy in London (1845-65). With leading Plymouth marine painters T. L. Hornbrook dying in 1850 and the Condys in 1851 and 1857, Luscombe was without a competitor as a Plymouth marine painter throughout the 1860s. In 1850 he married Elizabeth Congdon; with whom he had four children. In the 1851 census he is listed with the occupation of coal merchant. By 1861 he was ‘Secretary to the Phoenix Coal Company and Marine Artist’. After the coal company was wound up in 1876, he concentrated solely on painting. Late in his career, he moved to Uxbridge, with his daughter, Florence. He died aged 79.
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