The Market Boat by Clarkson Stanfield. J. C. Armtage, engraver. 1826. Source: the 1871 The Art-Journal. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Commentary by The Art-Journal

This engraving is from one of the earliest pictures exhibited by Stanfield — at the British Institution, we believe, so far back as 1826;—it may thus be accepted as a kind of avant-courier to the large number of marine-works which followed it during a period of about forty years.

The scene lies on the Scheldt, a locality which painters of "sea-scapes" have loved to frequent for more than two centuries. Though, from the flatness of the shore on both sides, its banks are not so almost uniformly picturesque as our own Thames, any one who has sailed up the river as far as Antwerp, and even beyond, must have noticed that they offer in the towns, villages, and churches, of quaint architecture, in the green meadows studded with cattle, and in sundry other special features, conjointly with the heavy-built Dutch merchantshipping, and the numerous market-boats plying between the coasts, materials to form attractive subjects for the painter.

Judging from the breadth of water, Stanfield must have sketched this view no very considerable distance from the mouth of the river: the near boat is preparing to cross over with its freight of passengers, fruit, vegetables, &c, for one of the boatmen is unloosing the craft from the buoy, while another close to him hails a similar boat approaching from the other side. Behind is a Dutch schooner tacking up the river; and, moored off the opposite coast, is a large vessel which, so far as the flag at her stern can be made out, is a British ship.

The market-boat in front, with its contents, is a picturesque bit of composition, and shows much rich and varied colouring, which is partially repeated in the water, the artist skilfully treating the grouped objects so as to let a gleam of bright sunshine fall upon this part of the work; and as the clouds roll away for a few minutes — there is rain coming on in the distance — gleams of sunlight are repeated on the opposite land and water. A fresh breeze is blowing, just enough to keep the masses of clouds in tolerably rapid motion, and to cause a surf on the dwarfish waves as they roll onward to their near shore. The action of the water shows the artist's close study of the elements, while his judicious treatment of light and shade keeps everything in its proper place, and surbordinate to a general brilliant result.

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“From the Pictures in the Sheepshank Gallery: The Market Boat.” Art Journal (1871): 200-201. Hathi Trust Digital Library version of a copy in the University of Michigan Library. Web. 9 August 2013.

Last modified 9 August 2013