Shipping in the English Channel

Shipping in the English Channel

ca. 1755
Charles Brooking
Oil on canvas
35 1/2 x 46 3/8 inches (90.2 x 117.8 cm)

The setting of this exuberant work can be identified as the area known as the Downs, off the southeast coast of England in the county of Kent. The Downs had long been used as a safe anchorage for shipping, sheltered to the north and west by the coast, and to the east by the ten-mile-long sandbanks known as the Goodwin Sands. These and other constantly shifting shoals in the area posed a hazard to vessels and necessitated the guidance of knowledgeable pilots to navigate the passage between safe anchorage and open water. The ship at right plunging toward the viewer has just dropped off a pilot and is headed out to sea, the fresh breeze filling the sails that are still being adjusted. To the left, a naval two-decker is possibly coming into the anchorage and about to take on its own pilot; other ships can be seen moored in the anchorage beyond it. 

B1981.25.65
Signed in black paint, lower left: "C. Brooking".
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection