Maritime Art

A Waterman at Portsmouth Point (November 1774)

By Gabriel Bray, (1750-1823)

This is just one of seventy-three sketches by Gabriel Bray that were preserved in an album and purchased for the National Maritime Museum by the Society for Nautical Research’s MacPherson Fund in 1991.

The artist, Gabriel Bray, served as a second lieutenant on the 38-gun HMS Pallas between December 1774 and September 1775. This image of a waterman in Portsmouth is signed and dated ‘Nov 74’ and was thus made just before Bray sailed for the Caribbean. Such images of the people who occupied the everyday maritime world of the eighteenth century are exceptionally rare.

You can read more about Bray and see more of his work here and a Lieutenant’s Log for Bray’s Journey to the Caribbean in 1774 survives  at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. The archival link is here. The Captain’s Log also survives at the National Archives in Kew, Ref: ADM 51/667.

The social history of watermen is little studied, but the Society published an important article on Mersey Watermen in The Mariner’s Mirror in 2012. Read it here.

 

 

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