After instruction at Dr Barrow’s School and the R.A. Schools, Rowlandson added French elegance and dash to his art on his visit to Paris, where his aunt paid his fees for further instruction. He returned from France in 1772 and exhibited copiously from 1775 to 1787. Though unrivalled as a caricaturist, his fluidity of line with the reed pen brought equal vigour to marine scenes, in which he recorded the hustle and bustle of ports and dockyards, with a keen eye for the appearance of vessels, from the humblest of rowing boats to the grandest of ships of the line. The journeys by sea that he took, often in the company of Henry Wigstead, resulted in lively depictions of travel on channel packet boats, as well as records of historic events, such as the foundering of the Royal George at Spithead in 1782. His first great marine watercolour, a view of Deptford Dock, with a frigate on the left, and the rays of the sun illuminating the water, revealed a talent for marine drawing that persisted throughout his career. Many of his coastal views, especially in the 18th century, were of Cornish and Devon scenes, which he visited en route to his friend Mitchell, the banker, in Cornwall.
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