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The Scottish marine painter William Anderson (1757–1837) was active in London and is reputed to have worked in shipbuilding before becoming an artist, but nothing is known about his training. He moved to London in the 1780s and exhibited at the Royal Academy between 1787 and 1834, and the British Institution from 1810. Although he painted landscapes and rustic scenes, he is best known for his marine views influenced by 17th-century Dutch painting. He recorded naval engagements, including events such as Admiral Robert Calder's action off Cape Finisterre.
In 1805 Calder was detached to intercept the Franco-Spanish fleet commanded by the Comte de Villeneuve on its return from the West Indies. On 22 July Villeneuve’s fleet passed him in a thick fog on the way to Vigo and Calder only succeeded in cutting off two ships. The action was later considered a failure and Calder faced a court martial, which led to the end of his naval career.
The painting shows Calder’s ship the ‘Prince of Wales’ in the foreground port-quarter view on the green waves, which are subdued by the misty atmosphere. Astern of her and in the right of the picture are four two-deckers, all in port view. Receding into the background they are accordingly blurred by the fog, as are the other ships on the left and in the background.
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Action off Cape Finisterre | William Anderson | 19th Century
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