'I will venture to suggest that, if you want an expression of sea-wildness in connection with fishing, you had better go to Napier Hemy, whose pictures of such scenes have never been equalled' - John Brett
The marine painter Charles Napier Hemy was born in Newcastle, but his family emigrated to Australia in 1852 (a brother was born on board ship). Napier Hemy returned in 1855, working on a ship for a time, then painting in monasteries back home in Newcastle, and in Lyons. He studied at Newcastle School of Art, under William Bell Scott, and later worked under Baron Leys in Antwerp. In 1870 he moved to London, and eventually made his home in Falmouth in 1881. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1865, and was elected ARA in 1897, after his picture Pilchards was bought under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest. He became a full RA in 1910, the same year as Arthur Hacker.
Napier Hemy became famous above all as a marine painter, his earliest pictures in the genre being coastal scenes in the detailed manner of the Pre-Raphaelites. He also produced historical paintings and landscapes, but more or less confined himself to sea, coast and fishing scenes after his move to Falmouth at the beginning of the 1880s.
Hemy also did some illustrative work, notably in the 1880s, when he drew excellent pictures to accompany travel articles around Britain.
Illustration by Hemy for a magazine, 1880s.
Napier Hemy had at least two brothers who were painters, both living in Newcastle.
Sadly, sea paintings are not so popular today, and Pilchards at the Tate Gallery is rarely on show. A Nautical Argument is at the Walker Art Gallery. Abroad, Smugglers Chased by a Revenue Cutter is in the collection of the National Gallery of New South Wales, Australia.
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