Large men-of-war ships and smaller vessels struggle through rough seas off the coast of New Haven. The men-of-war in this painting were a common sight off the English coast in the 1790s, when hostilities between France and England were common in the troubled period during and after the French Revolution.
Newhaven, situated on the mouth of the River Ouse, in Sussex, was later described by William Daniell in his 'Voyage round Great Britain 1813–1823' as 'recovering from the state of decline into which it had fallen, after the obstruction of its harbour by sand, in consequence of the decay of the timber-piers by which it was defended.’
Francis Holman, marine painter, was born at Ramsgate, the son of a sailor. For much of his career, he lived in Wapping, London. His earliest paintings are ship’s portraits and many include the Kentish coastline, where he grew up. He initially exhibited at the Free Society of Artists. By 1773 he had taken on an apprentice, Thomas Luny. Towards the end of his career, Holman specialised in sea battles and other scenes involving the Royal Navy, Many were exhibited at the Royal Academy. He particularly painted sea engagements associated with the American War of Independence and the shipbuilding programme driven by that war. Holman died at his home in Wapping in 1784. His father returned his body to Ramsgate for burial.
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