The River Thames at Gravesend, with Two Men in a Fishing Boat
The River Thames at Gravesend, with Two Men in a Fishing Boat

DAVID COX OWS RWS (1783-1859)

The River Thames at Gravesend, with Two Men in a Fishing Boat

c. 1800 to c. 1820 England

Offered by John Spink Fine Watercolours


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It was around 1808 that Cox sought tuition and guidance from John Varley, the teacher of a clutch of talented young professional landscape painters, including John Linell, William Turner 'of Oxford' and William Henry Hunt.
Varley's pupils were all recommended to look for material along the Thames, especially where urban London thinned into the semi-rural spaces beyond Westminister.
Cox exhibited what must have been one of the fruits of one such excursion at this first appearance with the Associated Artists, the junior rival to the Watercolour Society, in 1809.
The following year he showed 'Peter-boats', focussing on the distinctive fishing vessels seen along this stretch of the Thames.

His growing interest in the fishing community mat have been one of the reasons Cox went to Hastings in 1811, recognising the power the work of Joshua Cristall and others had derived from ther visits there since 1807. Cox's 1812 exhibits with the Associated Artists included three depictions of the Hastings fishing fleet.
REturning home to Dulwich, Cox continued to explore the Thames. Newly elected to the reformed Society of Painters in Oil and Water Colours in 1813, Cox showed a watercolour entitled 'Gravesend Fishing Boat'. If this is not the work under discussion here, it could have been one very like it.
Contemporary depictions of the Thames Peter boats show them to have had a sail; they varied in size, but were usually larger than the small craft represented here.
This small, two-man rowing boat was evidently a useful alternatice used by men fishing for a living. The net hanging over the side and the box in the stern to preserve the catch appear in a watercolour dated 1823 on the oar (Spin-Leger 1998, where tentatively identified as the 1823 exhibit, 'Peter Boat on the Thames above Wesminister Bridge'; in which case, the term may perhaps have been used colloquially by Cox to denote any fishing boat on this stretch of the river).
Our watercolour is certainly a decade earlier.
The grey-green tones of the water, with its streaky blotted highlights and bulky, three-dimensional cloud are clear markers of Cox's earliest maturity. Having for several years sold small watercolours by the bundle to London dealers, Cox now had the confidence and self-belief to publish the more recent attractive examples of his technical skill and growing sensitivity to like and weather in his 'Treatise on landscape painting and effect in water colours', begun in 1813 and completed the following year.
G.H. Churchward; private collection.
Height 6.50 inch (16.51 cm)
Width 9.25 inch (23.49 cm)
Signed, D. Cox. Inscribed verso (by a later hand), 'Peter boat near Half Way House at Gravesend'.
John Spink Fine Watercolours

John Spink Fine Watercolours
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