Art Notes: A Deferred Gift to the London National Gallery

Article excerpt

The seascapes of Claude-Joseph Vernet are second only to those of Claude in the poetic glow of their exposition of light and water. A Calm at Sunset and A Shipwreck in a Tempest, painted as a pair in 1773, are not among his supreme works but come close to them. They were sold to a benevolent American donor to the National Gallery, London, by the descendants of Clive of India, who bought them as soon as they were completed.

In A Calm an orange drift of sunhaze suffuses a two-master and the quay outside which it is at anchor. Other intricately rigged ships ride steadily in the inner harbour. The parallel ripples of the sea are leapfrogged by the sunset's cast of light, in which trawler-men mount the inshore rocks to deliver their catch to waiting market-women. An angler raises his hand for attention as his rod bends and his line sinks. A columned monument on the quay and a Claude-like temple under the cliff add to the picture's beatific stillness. …