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Port of Rotterdam
Canvas, 83 x 120 cm
Signed and dated: J W Carmichael 1861
Provenance: Leger Gallery, London; private collection.
Note:many writers mistakenly call him James.
Our painting shows activity in the harbour with hay ships and rowing boats with market women and their wares on a market day in the Rotterdam Leuvehaven, (or maybe the area of the Kolk/Oude Haven?) with the Laurenskerk beyond. A trip to The Netherlands is mentioned in H. Mallalieu’s Dictionary of British Watercolour Artists, however without mentioning a date. Our picture is dated 1861, Carmichael would have visited our country in 1860. The painting therefore, must have been painted from memory and with the help of sketches.
John Wilson Carmichael was an English painter, born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 9 January 1800. His father was a ship’s carpenter and as a youth he was apprenticed to a shipbuilder.
It is possible that he spent a period at sea but at the age of 23 he had already established his painting workshop, sharing premises with the landscape painter Thomas Richardson Senior in Blackett Street, Newcastle. It has been suggested that Thomas Miles Richardson may have been his teacher.
Carmichael did not remain long in Newcastle but chose to travel throughout Italy. By 1847 he had returned to Britain and set up his studio in London. He was very prolific and a regular exhibitor of marine works at both the Royal Academy (1835–59) and the British Institution (1846–62). He returned to sea to participate officially in the Baltic theatre of the Crimean War in both 1854 to 1856 and much of his work there was published as engravings in the Illustrated London News.The National Maritime Museum, London, has his very large canvas of the 1855 bombardment of the Russian fortress of Sveaborg (now in Finland) and a large pair of pictures of HM Ships Erebus and Terror in the Antarctic and New Zealand during Captain James Clarke Ross’s Southern Ocean expedition of 1839–43.
He contributed in image and prose to volumes on marine art (Carmichael wrote two books on painting; The Art of Marine Painting in Water Colours (1859) and The Art of Marine Painting in Oil Colours (1864), but gave up painting and retired to Scarborough, where he died, after the early death of his son.