Thomas Sewell Robins

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HMS Assistance in the Ice, by Thomas Sewell Robins, 1853 HMS Assistance (1850).jpg
HMS Assistance in the Ice, by Thomas Sewell Robins, 1853
Watercolour of a Coastal Fishing Scene: "Bringing in the Nets" by Thomas Sewell Robins, 1861 TSR Bringing in the Nets - Watercolour 1861.jpg
Watercolour of a Coastal Fishing Scene: "Bringing in the Nets" by Thomas Sewell Robins, 1861
Chalk Drawing of a Girl with Wool Gatherings, by Thomas Sewell Robins TSR girl with Wool Gatherings.jpg
Chalk Drawing of a Girl with Wool Gatherings, by Thomas Sewell Robins

Thomas Sewell Robins (Devonport 8 May 1810 9 August 1880) was a British painter of maritime subjects.


Early life

Born 8 May 1810 [1] in Devonport, Devon, he was admitted into the Royal Academy Schools on 22 April 1829 under the sponsorship of fellow Devonian James Northcote, a former pupil of Sir Joshua Reynolds. His professor of painting was Thomas Phillips and his lecturer in perspective was J.M.W. Turner. He was an early member of the New Watercolour Society and the Institute of Painters in Watercolours. [2]

Joshua Reynolds 18th-century English painter, specialising in portraits

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Thomas Phillips English portrait and subject painter

Thomas Phillips RA was a leading English portrait and subject painter. He painted many of the great men of the day including scientists, artists, writers, poets and explorers.


Robins travelled extensively on the Continent, visiting France in 1842, Holland and Italy in 1845, the Mediterranean c. 1850, Holland and the Rhine in 1857, France in 1858, and Antwerp in 1859. A prolific painter, he exhibited 7 works at the RA; 39 at the British Institute; 21 at the Suffolk Street Galleries and 317 works at the New Watercolour Society. [3] Failing health forced him to reduce his commitments in 186566. He died in 1880, leaving his wife, Elizabeth and daughter, Delia.

Robins specialized in coastal marine subjects, working primarily in watercolours and on occasion in oils. He did some paintings, particularly some large scale yachting scenes in the Solent some of which were engraved by Dolby, Harris and others. His work is in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, the British Museum, the City of Portsmouth Museum, Cartwright Hall (Bradford), Howarth Museum and Gallery (Accrington), Newport Art Gallery, the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum (Birkenhead), the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, and the Muscarelle Museum of Art. [4]

Solent strait separating the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England

The Solent is the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England. It is about 20 miles long and varies in width between 2 12 and 5 mi, although the Hurst Spit which projects 1 12 mi (2.4 km) into the Solent narrows the sea crossing between Hurst Castle and Colwell Bay to just over 1 mi (1.6 km).

Victoria and Albert Museum Art museum in London

The Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.27 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery museum and art gallery in Birmingham, England

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One oil painting of his in the National Maritime Museum dates from 1853 and is of HMS Assistance trapped in the Arctic ice.

HMS <i>Assistance</i> (1850)

HMS Assistance was an Arctic discovery barque of the Royal Navy, and the sixth vessel to carry the name. She began her life in 1835 as an Indian-built merchant vessel, was purchased in 1850 and participated in two Arctic expeditions before being abandoned in the ice in 1854.

Arctic polar region on the Earths northern hemisphere

The Arctic is a polar region located at the northernmost part of Earth. The Arctic consists of the Arctic Ocean, adjacent seas, and parts of Alaska, Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Northern Canada, Norway, Russia and Sweden. Land within the Arctic region has seasonally varying snow and ice cover, with predominantly treeless permafrost -containing tundra. Arctic seas contain seasonal sea ice in many places.

A more typical watercolour by Robins is "Bringing in the Nets" initialled TSR and dated 1861. He produced many similar works of varying quality. He seldom added titles except for brief phrases about location e.g. "Off Sheerness"; the titles are mostly assigned by the auction houses.

During his travels Robins also made some pencil drawings and watercolour sketches of people in local dress. This chalk drawing is of a girl with wool gatherings but is not dated.

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  1. Stoke Damerel OPC (Online Parish Clerk).
  2. Gilbert Richard Redgrave. 1905. A History of Water-Colour Painting in England. (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge), p.213.
  3. National Maritime Museum 1971 Two Victorian Marine Painters - Exhibition catalogue.
  4. "Small Boats Offshore Struggling in a Gale, (watercolor on paper)". Curators at Work V. Muscarelle Museum of Art. 2015. Retrieved 21 Jun 2018.

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