John Wilson Carmichael
‘Shipping on the Solent, near Osbourne House’
Signed & dated 1862
Oil on Canvas
23” x 39”
John Wilson Carmichael
British 1800 – 1868
John Wilson Carmichael was born in Newcastle in 1800, the eldest son of William Carmichael, who worked as a shipwright. In that year Britain had just declared war on France and the threat of invasion from Napoleon was becoming very real. Newcastle fared better than many others in the war years, due to the flourishing coal industry and busy shipyards.
Growing up in Newcastle, he spent his youth watching the loading and unloading of the coal barges and cargo ships, and on the quayside itself there were the peddlers, the flower and fish sellers and the artists, who must have been of special interest to a young boy destined to become an artist himself. John went to sea at an early age and spent three years on board a vessel sailing between various ports in Spain and Portugal. On his return, he was apprenticed to Richard Farrington & Brothers, shipbuilders on the Tyne, and after completing his apprenticeship, he devoted all his leisure time to art, eventually giving up the shipbuilding business and setting himself up as a marine and landscape painter, a draughtsman and drawing master.
Shipping on the Solent near Osbourne House, painted towards the end of his career in 1862, is a superb example of John Wilson Carmichael’s work. The scene, painted on the Solent, a major shipping route for passengers, freight and military vessels, illustrates not only Carmichael’s love of the sea and intimate knowledge of ships, but his ability to produce a painting of beauty and balance. In the background John Wilson Carmichael, has painted the magnificent Osbourne House, built for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a summer home and rural retreat. Finished in 1851, Osbourne House was designed by Prince Albert himself, and was built by Thomas Cubitt, in the style of an Italian palazzo, consisting of a square wing known as ‘The Pavilion’, which housed the royal apartments and was completed with two belevedere towers. The house has wonderful views across the Solent, which appealed to Queen Victoria and reminded Prince Albert of the Bay of Naples in Italy .
John Wilson Carmichael was an ambitious and prolific painter, he moved his family from his native Newcastle upon Tyne to London, where he enjoyed considerable success, exhibiting both oil paintings and water-colours at the Royal Academy, the Society of British Artists and the British Institution, between 1835 and 1862. In 1855 during the Crimean War he was sent to the Baltic to make drawings for the Illustrated London News. His painting of the bombardment of Sveaborg, which he witnessed during his assignment, was exhibited at the Royal Academy and is now in the collection of the National Maritime Museum.
John Wilson Carmichael spent his last years in Scarborough, working until he died in 1868. He published The Art of Marine Painting in Water-Colours in 1859 and The Art of Marine Painting in Oil-Colours in 1864.
His daughter Annie married William Luson Thomas, son of a shipbroker and a successful artist who, exasperated by the treatment of artists by The Illustrated London News, founded in 1869 The Graphic newspaper, which had immense influence within the art world
© Sutcliffe Galleries 2014