Samuel Atkins (c1765–1808)

Ships of the Line

Watercolour, 133/4 x 19 in (35 x 48 cm), Circa 1800.

This large watercolour shows a mastery of compositional detail. The main vessels, all three deckers, are proceeding down wind and line ahead, whilst the frigate on the right is beating into the wind. The gun salute might indicate that this is the start of a battle manoeuvre. A picture like this was destined for display rather than for the portfolio. Atkins is following the tradition of the elder Van de Velde’s set pieces in oil, but he has absorbed from the son the importance of compositional arrangement as well as atmosphere.