'Sunset On The Sea'
Seascape painter James Hamilton was born in Ireland
in 1819 of Scottish parentage. At age 15 he came to the United States and
trained as an illustrator for books and magazines, including Blackwood’s
Magazine in Philadelphia. He attended drawing school and later studied at
the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he gained additional
skill in engraving and etching.
Hamilton particularly admired the
work of J.M.W. Turner and Samuel Prout. Hamilton was often called “the
American Turner” because of his vivid lighting affects in coastal scenes
What are the Wild Waves Saying? (1859, Brooklyn
Museum) shows the loose brushwork often associated with Turner. Because
this painting was inspired by a chapter heading in Charles Dickens’ Dombey
and Son, Hamilton presented Dickens with the painting when the author
visited the United States in 1868, the only gift, Dickens said, that he
accepted while in America.
Hamilton’s seascapes, many painted along the New
Jersey coast, showed the passions of nature, sometimes those of men. The
Bombardment of Fort Mifflin (date and location unknown) contrasts a level
sea with leaping flames around ships and straining man in a boat.
Hamilton was perhaps best known
for his illustrations in Arctic Explorations, a book by Elisha Kent Kane.
Other well-known paintings include An Egyptian Sunset, The Capture of the
Serapis and A Moonlight Scene near Venice (dates and locations unknown).
Perhaps looking for a real-life adventure to match his paintings, Hamilton
embarked on a trip around the world- but died in San Francisco in 1878
without completing it.
His work is displayed in public collections including
the Atwater Kent Museum, Philadelphia; Free Library of Philadelphia;
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts; Philadelphia Maritime Museum;
Pennsylvania Historical Society and The United States Naval Academy.
~From the American Art Analog, Volume I