This early 19th-century oil on canvas by British artist James Miller Huggins (c.1807-1870) depicts a Dutch fishing boat battling against a turbulent sea. The crew are desperately clinging on, as the sail billows with ominous force. Above, a dark and menacing sky is broken only by a glint of light in the middle left.
James Miller Huggins was aware of the perils of sailing as his father, an eminent marine artist, had travelled extensively while in the service of the East India Company. William John Huggins (1781-1845) was highly regarded for his wind-torn portrayals of ships buffeted by waves and, as such, achieved royal patronage via King William IV. A press obituary described him as follows:
“The early years of Mr. Huggins were passed upon the ocean, having made several voyages to China, in the service of the East India Company; and this enabled him, who had keenly endured the horrors of the storm, to paint the subject so accurately; for no artist has ever excelled him in portraying a gale of wind with all its concomitant terrors.”
Can you imagine the stories he told when back with his family? These undoubtedly left an impression on young James, one which underpinned the works completed under his father’s tutelage.
Today, several works by James Miller Huggins can be found at the National Maritime Museum.
Signed/dated in the lower left and housed within a later frame.
Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 21½” x 18½” / 55cm x 47cm
Year of creation: 1825
Condition: Artwork presents well. Craquelure but the paint is stable. Canvas relined. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction highlight: £6,600 achieved for an oil painting in 2000.