Francis Holman

A Dockyard at Wapping

c.1780–4

Medium
Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions
Support: 787 x 1270 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1973
Reference
T01763

Display caption

Little is known about the artist Francis Holman. He was a painter of seascapes, ship's portraits and dockyard scenes, such as this small private dockyard on the Thames at Wapping. It is recorded that at one time Holman lived at Wapping, so he would have been intimate with the area and well able to execute this topographically accurate scene. He depicts with care the busy action of the dock, with ships in dry dock, and men unloading cargo. Even the sailmaker's firm of Morley, which is inscribed on the sign on the building to the extreme left, is known to have existed, directories listing it in Wapping until 1784.

Gallery label, August 2004

Catalogue entry

Francis Holman active 1767–1790

T01763 A Dockyard at Wapping c.1780–4

Canvas, painted surface 31 x 50 (78.8 x 127); stretcher size 31½ x 51½ (80 x 131.9).
Purchased (Grant-in-Aid) 1973.
Coll: Commander K. R. Hoare and Miss Sybil Hoare, sold Sotheby’s 21 June 1950 (145), bought Leggatt; sold Christie’s 6 February 1953 (143) bought D. Yorke (until now as ‘Deptford Dockyard’ by S. Scott); G. D. Stanley Smith by 1957; Christie’s 22 June 1973 (162, repr.) bought by Leggatt for Tate Gallery.
Exh: ?R.A. 1784(208).
Lit: E. H. H. Archibald, ‘Two paintings of ship portraits and shipyards on the Thames in the 18th century’ in Christie’s Review of the Season 1973, pp. 48–50, repr.

The scene is a small private dockyard on the Thames at Wapping, with h.m.s. ‘William and Elizabeth’ and h.m.s. ‘John’ in dry dock. The un-named ship on the left is probably a government vessel since she wears the Royal Naval jack. Lloyd’s Lists for 1770–90 include a ship called ‘William and Elizabeth’ built by Maitland & Co. on the Thames.

The building on the extreme left bears the inscription ‘morley sail-maker’.

The sailmakers’ firm of John Morley and Son is listed in contemporary directories as being established at 225 Wapping in 1783–84, and at 60 Lower Shadwell from 1785 onwards. As earlier directories are more selective, it is possible that the firm was at Wapping already in the 1770’s without being listed.

A painting entitled ‘A Shipyard upon the Thames’ was exhibited by the artist at the R.A. in 1784.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1972–1974, London 1975.