Born in London c.1702, Samuel Scott is widely considered to be at the forefront of 18th Century British marine painting. Little is known about his early life and training but his depictions of naval battles and port scenes show a strong influence from the Dutch marine masters, particularly Willem Van de Velde the younger (1633-1707) from whom many of his compositions are derived.
Whilst the Van de Veldes remained a constant source of inspiration throughout his career, the arrival of Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697-1768), better known as Canaletto, in 1746 would prove a defining point and lead Scott to being dubbed ‘the English Canaletto’. Prior to this he completed his first major commission in 1732; a collaboration with fellow artist George Lambert (1700-1765). This was to paint a series of six pictures of the East India Company’s settlements to be displayed in the Company’s headquarters at East India House, Leadenhall Street, London.
Some of his earliest naval engagement paintings were done for the Vernon family, documenting amongst other things, Admiral Vernon’s celebrated capture of Porto Bello in 1739. These works were so successful that he accepted many other commissions including scenes from the War of Jenkin’s Ear (1739), the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) and latterly the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), which were all made from his studio in Covent Garden.
Contrary to other marine painters of his generation, Scott was very successful and enjoyed considerable patronage and support through his social connections. In particular art historian and patron Horace Walpole encouraged his friends to buy Scott’s paintings and described him as ‘one whose works will charm in every age’. His friendship with fellow Londoner William Hogarth (1697-1764) further established his position in the London art scene. Unlike many marine artists, his love of ships did not extend to spending much time on them as he was reputed to suffer from severe seasickness.