Charles Napier Hemy, RA, RWS
(Newcastle-on-Tyne, 24 May 1841 - 30 September, 1917, Falmouth)
Charles Napier Hemy was the first Falmouth artist to be elected a Royal Academician, and was the finest marine artist of his generation. He lived in London from 1870-1881, then settled in Falmouth, where he had a boat fitted out as a studio, where he could observe the sea at first hand and make numerous studies of wave movement and shipping. He built and lived at Churchfield (now the Athenaeum Club). He was mentor to Sir Frank Brangwyn, John Riley Wilmer and Montague Dawson.© Copyright Ownership: falmouthartgallery.com
In 1850 with his parents, who were emigrating due to financial difficulty, Hemy set sail on the Madawaska to Australia. This journey, and their return in 1852, were to be recalled for the rest of his life as having started his love affair with the sea: 'It was imprinted on my mind, and I never forgot it'.
In 1852, Hemy enrolled in Newcastle's Government School of Design under the tutelage of William Bell Scott. An additional encouragement was the work of an uncle, Isaac Henzell, whose influence is noted in some marine paintings. The artist was a life-long and devout Catholic, and for a time in his youth joined as a Brother to French Dominicans at Lyons.
With no settled vocation, from 1862, his life as an artist became his focus. In 1863, he went to study with the Belgian painter Baron Henri Leys, and attended the Antwerp Academy. On the death of Leys he returned to England, where in 1866, he married. From 1869-80, Hemy lived in London, working from a gallery studio in Fulham close to the home of Burne-Jones, the Pre-Raphaelite painter, and in the William Morris workshop. The influence of Whistler was strong, and his waterside (Thames) paintings illustrate this.
However, by the 1870s Hemy was looking at other marine locations, and 'The Harbour of St Ives' (1871) is one example amongst others of seaside paintings around Britain. J. J. Tissot, a friend of Whistler, was to become a major influence on the more painterly style that Hemy developed during the 1870s when his summers were spent in the fishing ports of Cornwall and Devon. By 1880, he had chosen Falmouth for his future home, and this he had built to his own design and specification. His first wife, Mary, died in that year, and with his second wife, Amy Mary Freeman (whom he married in 1881), he was to have ten children.
The artist visited Newlyn from his home in Falmouth with regularity, and he also exhibited at the Opening Exhibition of Passmore Edwards Art Gallery, Newlyn in 1895. His special friends were his Falmouth fellow artists Henry Scott Tuke and Frank Brangwyn, another lover of the sea, who would live on to write his memorial appreciation (Fine Art Society Exhibition 1918). He died on 30 September, 1917 in Falmouth, age 76.
© Copyright Ownership: falmouthartgallery.com
English painter born into a musical family. An early artistic influence was the teaching of William Bell Scott, Headmaster of the Government School of Design in Newcastle. But in the 1850s Hemy's painting had to compete with his Catholicism and the call of the sea. By the mid-1860s he had settled down and had adopted a Pre-Raphaelite style, exemplified in his early masterpiece 'Among the Shingle at Clovelly' (1864; Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Laing A.G.). He was inspired by contact with the circles of William Morris and George Pinwell, but criticism of his draughtsmanship led him to study under Baron Henry Leys at Antwerp from 1867 to 1869. This resulted in several religious subjects (e.g. 'At the Foot of the Cross'; exhibited R.A. 1870; untraced).answers.com
HEMY, Charles Napier, A.R.A. (1898), R.W.S. (1897): marine painter; b. Newcastle-on-Tyne, 24 May 1841; e. s.[elder son] of late Henri F. Hemy, distinguished musician, and Margret, d. [daughter] of Angus Macdonald; m. [married] Amy Mary, d. [daughter] of W. G. Freeman, Falmouth, 1881; six s [sons], four d. [daughters]; Education: Newcastle Grammar School; St. Cuthbert's College, Durham; Art studies, Newcastle Art School, under W. Bell Scott, as a boy, and Antwerp Academy, 1807, afterwards pupil of Baron Henri Leys. Made three voyages to sea as a youth; joined the Dominicans at Lyons at 19, but left, at 22, and decided to become a painter; at 24 exhibited first picture at the Royal Academy; dissatisfaction with the results of these attempts resulted in going to Antwerp to study under Baron Leys; in 1870, returned to England, and lived in London till 1881, exhibiting at Royal Academy, Grosvenor New Gallery; and in 1882, left London and built Churchfield, at Falmouth, where most of his pictures have since been painted.
Who's Who Year-Book, Volume 58, 1906, edited by Henry Robert Addison, Charles Henry Oakes, William John Lawson, Douglas Brooke Wheelton Sladen
Charles Napier Hemy was a renowned maritime artist of the late 19th century. At the age of 10 he accompanied his father on a trip around the world, culminating in a visit to the Goldfields of Victoria in 1851-2. In 1904 Charles sat down on board his yacht Van der Meer in Falmouth harbour and wrote a journal of his recollections of his travels under sail, and adventures on the Goldfields.
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