Henry Scott Tuke

All Hands to the Pumps


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Henry Scott Tuke 1858–1929
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 1854 × 1397 mm
frame: 2243 × 1805 × 105 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1889

Display caption

This picture shows a ship that has lost one of its sails, and is being swamped by a storm. The crew desperately pump water out of the hull. Tuke painted this scene aboard an old French brig anchored in Falmouth Harbour. He had lived in Falmouth as a boy, but in 1885 decided to leave London to settle there permanently encouraged by the Newlyn School of open-air painters. In Cornwall he focused on painting the male nude in the open air but also produced marine subjects like this.

Gallery label, November 2016

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Catalogue entry


Inscr. ‘H. S. Tuke. 1889’ b.r.
Canvas, 73×55 (185·5×140).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1889.
Exh: R.A., 1889 (464); R.A., Late Members, winter 1933 (286).
Lit: C. Kains-Jackson in Magazine of Art, 1902, pp.338 and 342–3, repr. p.339; Art Journal, 1907, pp.358–9, repr.; Sainsbury, 1933, pp.86–8.
Repr: Sir Edward J. Poynter, The National Gallery, III, 1900, p.283.

At the time of painting this picture Tuke was living aboard an old French brigatine, the Julie, anchored in Falmouth Harbour. In a letter to his mother, dated 27 September 1888 (quoted by Sainsbury, loc. cit.), he noted ‘...I am just ordering a stretcher for my great pumping picture which is to be rather a big venture, about ten figures altogether. Unfortunately they come rather small, only about 2 ft. high, tho’ the picture is to be 6 ft. by 4 1/2; all this is quite contrary to your notions of my doing small pictures, but I am rather of Mr Bartlett's opinion that “the big uns get yer name up, Tooke”. Only seven instead of ten figures are included in the final composition, a reduction which allowed greater scale for each figure. Tuke owned a small fleet of sailing and rowing boats from which he painted studies of boats and shipping in Falmouth Bay. ‘All Hands to the Pumps’ was finished by the middle of March 1889.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, II

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