Thomas Whitcombe

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Thomas Whitcombe
Diedc. 1824?
Nationality British
Known for Marine art

Thomas Whitcombe (possibly 19 May 1763 – c. 1824) was a prominent British maritime painter of the Napoleonic Wars. Among his work are over 150 actions of the Royal Navy, and he exhibited at the Royal Academy, the British Institution and the Royal Society of British Artists. His pictures are highly sought after today.

Marine art Form of figurative art that portrays or draws its main inspiration from the sea

Marine art or maritime art is any form of figurative art that portrays or draws its main inspiration from the sea. Maritime painting is a genre that depicts ships and the sea—a genre particularly strong from the 17th to 19th centuries. In practice the term often covers art showing shipping on rivers and estuaries, beach scenes and all art showing boats, without any rigid distinction - for practical reasons subjects that can be drawn or painted from dry land in fact feature strongly in the genre. Strictly speaking "maritime art" should always include some element of human seafaring, whereas "marine art" would also include pure seascapes with no human element, though this distinction may not be observed in practice.



The Battle of Camperdown, 11 October 1797 by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1798 Thomas-Whitcombe-Battle-of-Camperdown.jpg
The Battle of Camperdown, 11 October 1797 by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1798
The Battle of the Saintes, 12 April 1782: surrender of the Ville de Paris by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1783 Whitcombe, Battle of the Saints.jpg
The Battle of the Saintes, 12 April 1782: surrender of the Ville de Paris by Thomas Whitcombe, painted 1783
A becalmed man o'war firing a salute, 1797 A becalmed man o'war firing a salute, by Thomas Whitcombe.jpg
A becalmed man o'war firing a salute, 1797
The Battle of Cape Ortegal, by Thomas Whitcombe Ortegal.jpg
The Battle of Cape Ortegal , by Thomas Whitcombe
Capture of La Proserpine - 13 June 1795, painted by Thomas Whitcombe, engraved by J Jeakes, 1 May 1816, in the collection of the National Maritime Museum HMS Dryad vs Proserpine.jpg
Capture of La Proserpine - 13 June 1795, painted by Thomas Whitcombe, engraved by J Jeakes, 1 May 1816, in the collection of the National Maritime Museum

Thomas Whitcombe was born in London between 1752 and 19 May 1763, with the latter date frequently cited. [1] Little is known of his background or training, although speculation based on the locations depicted in his paintings may provide some clues.

London Capital of the United Kingdom

London is the capital and largest city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames in the south-east of England, at the head of its 50-mile (80 km) estuary leading to the North Sea, London has been a major settlement for two millennia. Londinium was founded by the Romans. The City of London, London's ancient core − an area of just 1.12 square miles (2.9 km2) and colloquially known as the Square Mile − retains boundaries that follow closely its medieval limits. The City of Westminster is also an Inner London borough holding city status. Greater London is governed by the Mayor of London and the London Assembly.

It is known that he was in Bristol in 1787 and later travelled to the South Coast; there are few ports or harbours from this region that do not feature in his work. In 1789 he toured Wales and in 1813 he travelled to Devon, painting scenes around Plymouth harbour. During his career he also painted scenes showing the Cape of Good Hope, Madeira, Cuba and Cape Horn. Between 1783 and 1824 he lived in London, including addresses in Covent Garden and Somers Town during the course of his exhibiting career.

Bristol City and county in England

Bristol is a city and county in South West England with a population of 463,400. The wider district has the 10th-largest population in England. The urban area population of 724,000 is the 8th-largest in the UK. The city borders North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, with the cities of Bath and Gloucester to the south-east and north-east, respectively. South Wales lies across the Severn estuary.

Wales Country in northwest Europe, part of the United Kingdom

Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population in 2011 of 3,063,456 and has a total area of 20,779 km2 (8,023 sq mi). Wales has over 1,680 miles (2,700 km) of coastline and is largely mountainous with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon, its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate.

Devon County of England

Devon, also known as Devonshire, is a county of England, reaching from the Bristol Channel in the north to the English Channel in the south. It is part of South West England, bounded by Cornwall to the west, Somerset to the north east, and Dorset to the east. The city of Exeter is the county town. The county includes the districts of East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge, Torridge, and West Devon. Plymouth and Torbay are each geographically part of Devon, but are administered as unitary authorities. Combined as a ceremonial county, Devon's area is 6,707 km2 and its population is about 1.1 million.

His date of death, like that of his birth is uncertain; it was not before 1824, and possibly as late as 1834.


His range of work embraced naval engagements, ship portraits, coastal scenes with shipping and ships at sea in fresh breezes and storms. The topography of the background is interesting and well observed and the depiction of the ships themselves detailed and technically very correct, a legacy of time spent in dockyards studying the subject matter. The backgrounds are delightfully atmospheric and, like many British marine artists of the 18th and 19th century, Whitcombe favoured a dark foreground. [2]

Artistic Achievement

Whitcombe was, with Nicholas Pocock, Thomas Luny, Francis Holman and Robert Dodd, a leading maritime painter of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. He painted over 150 actions of the Royal Navy including fifty plates for The Naval Achievements of Great Britain, a splendid volume issued after the cessation of hostilities. [3]

Nicholas Pocock British artist

Nicholas Pocock was a British artist known for his many detailed paintings of naval battles during the age of sail.

Thomas Luny British artist

Thomas Luny (1759–1837), born in Cornwall, probably at St Ewe, was an English artist and painter, mostly of seascapes and other marine-based works. At the age of eleven, Luny left Cornwall to live in London. There he became the apprentice of Francis Holman, a marine painter who would have a great and long lasting artistic influence on Luny: Luny remained until 1780 in Holman's London studio, which, was first situated in Broad Street, St. George’s, and later relocated to Old Gravel Lane.

Francis Holman (1729–1784) was a British maritime painter, little recognised during his own lifetime, but whose paintings are now sought after. He is also notable as the teacher of Thomas Luny.

He exhibited at the Royal Academy fifty-six times between 1783 and 1824 and once each at the British Institution and the Royal Society of British Artists. [2] Many of his paintings are today in the collection of the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, and in other important naval collections around the world.

British Institution art society

The British Institution was a private 19th-century society in London formed to exhibit the works of living and dead artists; it was also known as the Pall Mall Picture Galleries or the British Gallery. Unlike the Royal Academy it admitted only connoisseurs, dominated by the nobility, rather than practicing artists to its membership, which along with its conservative taste led to tensions with the British artists it was intended to encourage and support. In its gallery in Pall Mall the Institution held the world's first regular temporary exhibitions of Old Master paintings, which alternated with sale exhibitions of the work of living artists; both quickly established themselves as popular parts of the London social and artistic calendar. From 1807 prizes were given to artists and surplus funds were used to buy paintings for the nation.

The Royal Society of British Artists (RBA) is a British art body established in 1823 as the Society of British Artists, as an alternative to the Royal Academy.

National Maritime Museum museum in London, England

The National Maritime Museum (NMM) is a maritime museum in Greenwich, London. The historic buildings form part of the Maritime Greenwich World Heritage Site, and it also incorporates the Royal Observatory and 17th-century Queen's House. In 2012, Her Majesty the Queen formally approved Royal Museums Greenwich as the new overall title for the National Maritime Museum, Queen’s House, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, and the Cutty Sark. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the National Maritime Museum does not levy an admission charge, although most temporary exhibitions do incur admission charges.


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  1. He is recorded as entering the Royal Academy Schools as a student on 8 March 1781, his age is recorded as 18 since '19th last May'
  2. 1 2 "Thomas Whitcombe Biography at John Bennett Fine Paintings". Archived from the original on 17 May 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
  3. "Thomas Whitcombe Biography at ArtNet" . Retrieved 28 February 2008.