Object Image

Stanfield went to sea at eleven to escape apprenticeship to a drunken coach painter, was pressed into the Royal Navy in 1812, then took up scene painting at the Royalty Theatre, London after being discharged for injury in 1816. Known for stunning romantic effects, often created in partnership with David Roberts, the artist introduced moving dioramas into Christmas pantomimes and Easter spectacles, titled "Adventures of a Ship of War" (1825), "Napoleon’s Passage of the Simplon" (1830) and "Niagara" (1832). While touring painted panoramas around major British and European cities, Stanfield contributed to the exhibitions of the British Institution and Royal Academy, and was elected Associate at the latter in 1835 through the support of the "Sailor King" William IV. In 1844, he became first curator of the Naval Gallery at Greenwich. "Fire at Sea" combines visual drama with a knowledge of ships and the sea and once belonged to a family friend, the abolitionist Thomas Clarkson.

Credit: Gift of Robert Tuggle, in memory of Charles Ryskamp, 2014

Watercolor and gouache on beige paper
4.0 x 12.0in
Image and text © Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2019

Where you'll find this

The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Permanent collection