ROBERT SALMON1775-after 1845
Robert Salmon was born in Whitehaven, Cumberland, England on the Scottish border in 1775. He moved to London in the late 1790s and then to Liverpool in 1806. Salmon lived in the ship-building town of Greenock on the west coast of Scotland from 1811 to 1822. The detailed depictions of ships in his paintings reveal an intimate knowledge of ships and the sea, and reflect the influence of 17th Century Dutch marine painting. His use of diminutive, detailed figures is, however, unique to the genre. Salmon is credited with establishing the luminist tradition in American painting, having strongly influenced William Bradford, Alfred Thompson Bricher, James Hamilton, William Haseltine, Martin Johnson Heade, and Fitz Hugh Lane, among others.
Salmon emigrated to Boston in 1828, arriving on the packet ship, “New York.” He established himself as a painter of marine scenes and ship portraits. He also painted theatrical scenery and panoramas, including drop curtains for the Federal Street Theatre and a series of fifteen-foot canvases of naval battles. For thirteen years, the artist maintained a studio on Marine Railway Wharf at the bottom of Hanover Street. It is estimated that he produced about three hundred works while living in Boston. Despite great success as a painter, Salmon resided in a small hut on the wharves of Boston Harbor. He left Boston in 1842, following an auction of his work. It is presumed he returned to England, for a work dated 1843 bears an address label from Liverpool. His last dated works are Italian scenes done in 1845, after which he seems to have disappeared. There is no record of the date of his death.
Salmon’s paintings can be found in the following museums: the National Museum of American Art, the National Gallery of Art, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities, Boston; the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Annapolis, Maryland; the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut; the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; the New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut; the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut; the Mariner’s Museum, Newport News, Virginia; the Farnsworth Art Museum, Rockland, Maine; the Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts; the Shelburne Museum, Vermont; the Worcester Museum of Art, Massachusetts; and the Mystic Seaport Museum, Connecticut.