A lieutenant in the Royal Navy, Yates was one of a number of serving officers who, as amateur artists, added their own perspective to marine views in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Many produced skilful portraits of ships, but their amateur status is often revealed by an innate clumsiness. Though this is sometimes apparent in the work of well-known amateurs, such as Rear Admiral George Tobin, Thomas Yates was much more competent, and produced works of great quality. His vessels in stormy seas have a real sense of movement, set under glowering skies, but he was equally adept at the portrayal of calm seas, which have a luminous quality. His ships are drawn in meticulous and accurate detail. His career both as a serving officer and an artist was cut short when he was shot in a dispute about the ownership of a house.
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