Charles Brooking British, 1723-1759

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 thirty-six, 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'.

 

Not that much is known of his midget career, though Charles is recognized to be the finest British marine painter of his day, equally adept at calm or rough seas. In the initial days of his career, Brooking was evidently employed at Deptford dockyard and is believed to have an intimate knowledge of the ships he painted.

 

Except for paintings he painted with aesthetics, which are pertinent to specific historical events, Brooking's initial works are not easy to date more concisely, other than stylistically having a deep discourse hidden by theme, and have not yet been intricately observed for their chronological development. His first two portraits depict some influence of Peter Monamy, but Charles already displayed strong signs of a distinctive personal manner. He is remembered to have drawn away from the native traditions of the marine genre, which inculcated formal ship portraiture. However, at least a few masterpieces are signed by him, one now in the Maritime Museum at Greenwich, which displays a ship in this convention. With that having on his name, there is also a group of paintings and prints, signed or inscribed "Monamy" and datable to the years circa 1745-1750, but whose style is recognized to have similarities of consistency with Brooking's. Few of the likeable prints have characteristics by different print dealers to both painters in separate issues.

 

Charles was one of the hard-working marine painters in his era. He would go to different coastal belts to paint marine subjects and capture their majestic beauty. His art would never be replaced by ones who paint only to get some fame, for his art is sublime in its essence. The majority of his works are exhibited in various museums as motivational pieces of paintings to infer the belief that art is immortal and will influence till the end of this world. Charles died in 1759.