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a word on art

The Battle of Camperdown 11th October 1797 – A Closer Look

Camperdown represented a decisive victory for the Admiral Adam Duncan and the Royal Navy over the forces of the Batavian Republic, the Revolutionary State established in the Netherlands as a ‘Sister-Republic’ to France.

The Dutch fleet posed a significant threat to the British in the North Sea, particularly due to their alliance with the French. The battle represented the largest scale naval engagement of the Revolutionary Wars to that point, with sixteen British ships-of-the-line facing fifteen Dutch, alongside numerous smaller vessels. It has been argued that Camperdown could be considered the last time that a naval battle needed to be won by the Royal Navy, as the Dutch were intending on sailing with thirty thousand troops in order to invade Ireland. It is also likely the reason that Napoleon was unable to invade the mainland when he was the commander of the Army of the Channel in 1800-1802.

Although now much eclipsed by Nelson’s triumphs at Aboukir Bay and Trafalgar in the following decade, Camperdown was widely celebrated by the British public, and considered at that time a contender for the nation’s most significant naval victory. The battle prompted a significant boost to national morale, particularly given the fact that the fleet had suffered significant mutinies the year before. For his successful command Adam Duncan was made Viscount of Camperdown, and interestingly was awarded the largest pension ever offered by the British Government.

Painted by some of the most renowned Marine painters of the eighteenth-century including Daniel Orme and Thomas Whitcome, Ronny Moortgat takes on this famous battle with absolute mastery of his brush and palette in this majestic composition. Billowing sails, thrashing sea and the smoke of wounded naval vessels add to the vivacious atmosphere of this mesmerising painting and secure Ronny Moortgat’s place as the artiste de force of Marine painting today.

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