Collection J. C. Harter, Leamington, England (and sold: Christie's, London, April 26, 1890, lot 25)
Christopher Wood Ltd., London
London, British Institution, 1848, no. 389
John Munday, Edward William Cooke, 1811-1880, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2001, p. 316, p. 317, pl. 263, illustrated
Cooke painted the present work in 1847, shortly after a summer tour in Scotland. The present work is one of Cooke's largest and most ambitious works and displays his strengths as a sharply observant landscape artist with his well-honed understanding of the sea and shipping vessels.
Dumbarton Castle is less a residence than an ancient fortress, stretched across two distinctive basalt peaks at the confluence of the Clyde and Leven Rivers, guarding the passage up to Glasgow. In August of 1847, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their family holidayed on the west coast of Scotland and included a sightseeing trip (attended by thirty-nine steamers over-filled with spectators) to Dumbarton Rock and Castle. Scotland had not been a special interest to Cooke, whose fame was built on pictures of Thames shipping and Dutch coastal scenes; but perhaps the much-reported Royal excursion drew his attention to the Firth of Clyde, which he toured a week or two after the Queen, or garnered himself a commission from one of the Queen's local hosts.
Cooke trained as a draftsman with his father and uncle, both of whom had worked as engravers for J.M.W. Turner. Turner's influence certainly underlies Cooke's dramatic contrast between roiling sea and luminous rainbow. In the present work, the powerful effect of the heeling boat, --- probably a herring smack, ---is straining to avoid the channel marker reflects Cooke's own attention to the structure of all manner of shipping. When he turned to oil painting in the 1830s, Cooke continued the best Anglo-Dutch traditions of careful observation in an age that expected heightened color and more painterly expression. By 1864, when he was elected to the Royal Academy, Cooke was one of the most successful marine painters of Victorian England.
John Munday, who recently published a biography of Cooke, has called attention to an earlier misidentification of the present work with Cooke's similarly sized French Herring-boats Running into the Port of Havre-de-Grace that has confused the history of both paintings.
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