Robert Cleveley (1747–1809)

Taking Crew to an English Frigate

Watercolour over pen and ink, 3 1/4 x 5 1/4 in (8.5 x 13.5 cm), Signed with initials and dated 1784.

The focus of interest here is the smaller vessel, beating up into the wind in a choppy sea. Despite the small scale, the figures are all in movement, those in the rowing boat, in particular, straining to stay on course against the tide, whilst the other figures are keeping the main sail in position to catch the breeze. Cleveley provides a suitably choppy sea in formalised 18th century mode, and the contrasts, given the massed clouds, are not overdone. The sail to the rear of the central vessel adds contrasting warmth of colour to cooler tones elsewhere.