Capstern at Work


Capstern at work, drawing up fishing boats oil on canvas 86.5x122.5cm, painted on commission for Sir Thomas Heathcote who paid 150 guineas (157.50) for it. The picture show a horse driven capstan used to pull fishing boats on to the beach. The painting was on sale at Christies on 30 November 2001 lot 51 but was unsold - estimate 15,000-20,000.
Wilkie Collins recorded that the picture was "much admired at the time as a new success for the painter in his most popular style." (Memoirs I p165). He also quotes from William's own diary which records that the picture is "painted in linseed oil and turpentine, and macguilph made of shook-up drying oil and mastic varnish, with gold size, in the slow dryers. Chrome yellow and orange (Field's) and cobalt, (French,) used occasionally...began 14th December [1819]; finished 8th February; deducting five days for absence from home was painted in about seven weeks." (Memoirs pp165-166) 
The horse is very typical of Collins's style, in action, working and with every detail of its harness drawn with care. Most of his horses seemed to be white.
This detail shows the boats. It is typical of Collins's pictures that a detail like this can be taken out and appear as a well-composed picture in itself. Note the sails on the boats and the use of impasto in the representation of the clouds

All material on these pages is Paul Lewis 1996-2002