British Men-o-War Coastal Scene

by John Thomas Serres


DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 10.0 x 14.0 inches/ 25.5 x 35.5 cm
SIGNATURE: Signed lower right
MEDIUM: Oil on canvas

Both son and pupil of the prolific maritime painter Dominic Serres (1722–1793), John T. Serres benefited from his father’s artistic connections and exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy between 1780 and 1825. His reputation for draughtsmanship was rewarded with the appointment of Master of Drawing at the Royal Naval College in Chelsea. Further recognition followed as he replaced his father as Marine Painter to the King, while in 1800 he became Marine Draughtsman to the Admiralty. John Thomas Serres was soon travelling by sea throughout the expanding empire, particularly in the Mediterranean, recording coastlines and documenting enemy positions.


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    Catalogue No: 5333 Categories: , ,

    John Thomas Serres was an English maritime painter born in London in 1759. His father was Dominic Serres, a prominent painter and founder of the Royal Academy. John Serres grew up painting alongside and being instructed by his father.

    Fine Art Society, London, January 1960 (label verso).
    Private Collection, United Kingdom.

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    John Thomas Serres (December 1759 – 28 December 1825) was an English maritime painter who enjoyed significant success, including exhibiting extensively at the Royal Academy, and was for a time Maritime Painter to King George III.

    John Thomas Serres was born in London in December 1759 to Dominic Serres, a prominent painter and a founder of the Royal Academy. Instructed by his father, John was involved in the publication of the maritime painter’s guide Liber Nauticus and the younger Serres had soon developed a successful independent painting career, the Royal Academy and British Institution exhibiting over 100 of his paintings over his lifetime. He also became Master of Drawing at the Royal Naval College in Chelsea and in 1793 was made Marine Painter to the King after his father’s death.

    Serres’ successful career was badly damaged in the early 19th century by the activities of his wife Olivia Serres, who came to believe that she was the illegitimate daughter of the Duke of Cumberland and publicly pressed her “claim” to his estate, insisting on being addressed as “Princess Olive of Cumberland”. Consequently, out of favour at court, Serres was forced to attempt to recoup his losses by investing in the theatre, setting up the Royal Coburg Theatre in 1818 that eventually became known as the “Old Vic”. However his wife’s activities again ruined him and he died in December 1825 in a London debtors’ prison.

    His daughter Lavinia Ryves spent most of her life continuing to unsuccessfully press her mother’s “claim” on the estate of King George III, even managing to take it to the House of Lords.


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