On the Thames at Woolwich, with the 'Buckinghamshire' Indiaman going down the river signed 'J.W.Carmichael' and dated 1842 (lower left) oil on canvas 75 x 111.2cm. (29 1/2 x 43 3/4in.)
Provenance :- Mr. Lewis Cooke, 1886.
Exhibited :- Royal Academy, 1847, no. 1266 (titled as above).
The large full-rigged merchantman lying in the river with her bow facing downstream is the former East Indiaman 'Buckinghamshire'. Laid down for the East India Company in their Bombay dockyard in 1825, she was a sizeable vessel registered at 1,369 tons and measuring 134 feet in length with a 44 foot beam. Despite being launched on 13th April 1816 however, her completion was obviously delayed and she did not clear the Thames on her maiden voyage to Bombay and China until 31st December 1817. Her first master, Captain Frederick Adams, retained his command for four round trips to China, usually via Bombay, until he handed over to Captain Richard Glasspoole for the ships fifth voyage eastwards in May 1825. Still maintaining China as her principal destination, Glasspoole kept the 'Buckinghamshire' until she returned home in June 1834, immediately after which she was sold out of the E.I.C.s fleet for £10,550. Purchased by Mangles & Co. of London, they traded her until 1841 when she was sold to another London shipowner, Cowasjee & Co., who operated her for a further ten years until she was destroyed by fire off Calcutta on 3rd March 1851. Given her sale to Cowasjee in 1841 and the date of this painting (1842), it seems highly likely that the work was commissioned to commemorate the vessels maiden departure from the Thames under her new owners colours.
Carmichael was also at Woolwich in May 1854 to sketch and paint the 'Launch of the Royal Albert' (now in the Royal Collection) and in 1859 he painted 'Shipping on the Thames at Woolwich' (see 'John Wilson Carmichael', Diana Villar, Laing Art Gallery, 1995, illustrated page 68).
Although later subsumed into Greater London, Woolwich was still an independent locality in the mid-nineteenth century. The gradual expansion of the naval dockyard since its establishment by Henry VIII in 1512-13 had meant increasing prosperity for an otherwise unremarkable little riverside town which only faltered in 1869, when the yard was closed down after its ageing facilities had been rendered obsolete by the introduction of steam power into the Navy. In 1842 however, this uncertainty was still in the future and Carmichael has been able to show the river bustling with activity yet, at the same time, celebrating the sheer beauty of commercial sail before steam began to take its toll.
We would like to thank Diana Villar for her help in cataloguing this lot.