This atmospheric seascape, subtly lit by the subdued light filtering through dark clouds, depicts the functional lines of the 'Leinster', a Victorian mail steamer, as she begins her journey from Holyhead, in Wales, to Kingston (now known as Dún Laoghaire), in Ireland.
The 'Leinster', named after a province of Ireland, was a paddle steamer for transporting mail and some passengers. It was one of four sister ships, built by Messrs Samuda Bros of London, for the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company, in 1860. The steamer was still operating in December 1895. However, by then the City of Dublin Steam Packet Company had already ordered a replacement and, in September the following year, a new 'Leinster' was launched. This ship was broken up at Belfast in 1897.
Artist Richard Brydges Beechey also painted 'H. M. Mail Steamer Leinster entering Kingstown Harbour', known from a lithograph. Another lithographic view of the ship arriving at Kingston was produced by Thomas Goldsworth Dutton (1819-1891). Both were published at around the time of the ship’s maiden voyage, in 1860.
Richard Brydges Beechey was born in London, the second youngest of 18 children of painter Sir William Beechey. He entered the Royal Naval College, Portsmouth, in 1821. He may also have received some instruction in painting from his father. In 1825, Beechey joined ‘HMS Blossom’ as a midshipman on a three-year voyage of discovery in the Pacific. On his return in 1828 he was promoted to Lieutenant and by 1885 had risen to the position of Admiral. In 1832, he first exhibited his marine paintings at the Royal Academy and showed work there almost every year until 1877. After retiring from the Navy in 1864, Beechey was free to pursue marine painting more fully. He died in Southsea in 1895.
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