John Cleveley Jr (1747–1786)

British Man of War in a Calm

Watercolour, 6 1/4 x 8 in (16 x 20 cm), Signed.

This is a beautifully balanced composition, which, on a small scale, presents a variety of shipping in receding planes. The naturalistic depiction of the sea, in which a lighter area is sandwiched between darker bands, displays a common Cleveley device, suggesting, albeit in its own appropriate colour, the appearance of ribbed sand. The addition of seagulls wheeling away to the far left and right of the picture adds verisimilitude to the scene. The poise and classical restraint of this image, with the sea and sky in harmony, is typical of the best of the 18th century watercolourists.

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