Born in London, Charles Brooking was mostly self-taught and emulated the style of Dutch master Simon de Vlieger (c. 1600-53). He is best known for the atmospheric qualities of his paintings and his subtle rendering of light. His first known picture dates to 1740, but it was Taylor White of the Foundling Hospital who commissioned Brooking, in 1754, to paint his first celebrated painting, A Flagship Before the Wind Under Easy Sail, a companion piece to Peter Monamy's (1681-1749) Fleet in the Downs.
His works are rare as his career was not only non-prolific but also short-lived as he died young, at the age of 36, having had very little artistic recognition during his lifetime. An anecodote apparently related by Dominic Serres, RA (1722-1793), said to be a pupil of Brooking along with Francis Swaine (1725-1782), in Edward Edwards's (1738-1806) Anecdotes of Painters (1808) offers an explanation for this undue obscurity, 'Brooking was accustomed to write his name upon his pictures, which mark was as constantly obliterated by the shopkeeper, before he placed them in his window'. This enforced anonymity, as well as the artist's premature demise, meant that 'his merits were scarcely known before his death prevented him from acquiring the honour and profit which, by his his abilities he had a just right to expect'.