Friday, November 11, 2011

The Sea and the Sky--Artist Robert Salmon

I know little of the ocean. I am a prairie person born and bred. Though I have seen both the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans, I have not lived near either. I cannot know the profound effect that the sea, and the nautical life it engenders, can have on a society or on an individual. It is a great drawback for a writer of books set in England, where the ocean has informed all the country's history.

East Indiaman 'Warley' by Robert Salmon 1804
I am aided in my understanding of the sea by marine artists. And I just discovered Robert Salmon 1775-1845. He was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland in 1775 of Scottish descent. His name originally was Salomon; he changed the spelling around 1800. He is an enigmatic figure--nothing is known of his artistic training, little is documented of his personal life. Even his date of death is uncertain.
View of Liverpool from Cheshire

Salmon displayed occasionally at the Royal Academy in London from 1802 on. He settled in Liverpool in 1806 and lived there until 1811. A body of work from that period survives and is in the National Maritime Museum, London.
The first Mail Packet from Liverpool to Glasgow 1805

Old Bidston Lighthouse near Liverpool
In 1812 Salmon removed to Scotland and lived in Greenock until 1822. A great number of paintings survive from those years. I am particularly drawn to the skies in his work--I think they show him influenced by Turner, though his style is thought to be guided by 17th century Dutch marine painters. Look at the skies in these paintings:
Curious Rocks on the Coast of Scotland
Moonlight Coastal Scene
View of Greenock 1816
Salmon returned to Liverpool in 1822 where he worked until 1825.
An armed merchant vessel passing the Custom House, Greenock on the Clyde
Neward Castle with a distant View of Port Glasgow
In 1828, Robert Salmon emigrated to America.
Land's End, Cornwall
He became one of the greatest marine artists in that country. Salmon influenced a whole new generation of artists in America, and produced an immense body of work. I have not ventured to even sample it here. He is considered 'the father of American luminism' and painted 300-400 paintings of Boston Harbour alone, working in a studio--some called it a hut--right on the wharves.

Robert Salmon left America in 1842 for Europe. A few works of Italian scenes have been discovered, but it is unknown if he returned to England. The date of his last known work is 1845. His death is thought to have occurred shortly after, but where and when is not clear. He was a solitary man to the end, but he left a great legacy. And I am grateful to have his work to educate me about the sea and its ways.

'Til next time,



Anne Gallagher said...

Oh wow. These are fantastic! I lived on the ocean for 35 years and now am landlocked. It is a great discomfort to me. There's something about the air on the sea that allows me to breath easier, as if all my troubles are carried by the winds to other lands.

I'll have to look Salomen up and see what I can find out. Boston was in my backyard. I'd love to see what he painted.

Thanks Lesley-Anne.

Lesley-Anne McLeod said...

I think Salmon's American pictures must be even more remarkable than those of his earlier years. I'm so glad you enjoyed discovering him--I certainly did!

I envy you living by the sea. I would love to do so, even just for a year, to see it in all its moods.

Thanks for visiting!

Anonymous said...

Should be Newark Castle. : )