Descriptive Catalogue of Mr. Huggins’ Grand Pictures of the Battle of Trafalgar,
painted for and exhibited by Permission of His Most Gracious Majesty, together with a Gallery of Paintings, forming the Third Annual Exhibition, at Exeter Hall, Strand.
First and only edition. Huggins reputedly began life as a sailor in the service of the East India Company, but his only known voyage was from December 1812 to August 1814, serving as steward to Captain Thomas Buchanan on the company ship Perseverance. When he first exhibited at the Royal Academy he had settled in Leadenhall Street, near East India House, where he remained for the rest of his life earning his living with ship portraits for company, captains and owners. “He was a competent ship portraitist with a distinctive smooth finish to his oils and rather silvery, muted colour, and his work provides an important record of the shipping of his time. However, although prolific and popular with a maritime audience, ‘Uggins was thus summarily dismissed in 1856 by Ruskin in his Harbours of England and Redgrave characterized his works as ‘tame in design, skies bad in colour, seas thin and poor.'” Whatever the judgements of the aesthetic critics, in 1830 Huggins was appointed Marine Painter to William IV, who in Redgrave’s opinion “esteemed his work rather for its correctness than its art” and who commissioned three large paintings of the Battle of Trafalgar from him. As seen here, the first two were exhibited at the Exeter Hall in 1834, the final canvas at the British Institution in 1837. The Gentleman’s Magazine described the pair on show as “of the deepest interest, skilfully painted, but most valuable for [their] historical truth.” All three paintings remain in the Royal Collection, two hanging at Hampton Court, the other in St. James’s Palace. The catalogue contains a “Brief Memoir of the Battle of Trafalgar,” a “Descriptive Catalogue” of the two canvases, and an extract from Victory’s log. There are two annotations in Huggins’ hand, the first at the foot of the note canvassing subscriptions for engravings of the Trafalgar pictures, giving the price as “Proofs £2.2.0. Prints £1.1.0 Each. Size 30 23 in.” The second is appended to the second page of the catalogue of the “Gallery of Paintings by the Old Masters” and remarks “N.B. 100 of these pictures are for sale.” Additionally, loosely inserted is an example of the ticket for the exhibition, printed, by Colyer, on orange-yellow card, 218 180mm, bold letter-press within an elaborate border printed in sepia, “Admission… 1s,” slightly marked verso from album-mounting, but otherwise fine, together with a 1p. autograph note by Huggins. The note does give a wonderful flavour of the man; “on Monday I sent up my Boy with the Painting to Mr. B Albano [probably Benedict Albano, architect and engineer, who later remodelled the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.] … he abused him most shamefully and made him take the Pictur home again in the afternoon he sent his Clark down to find falt with the Pictur – I sirved him out the same way he sirved my Boy. Now I am determined if he do not pay me I will give it in my Attorneys hands. the Cost of the Pictur is £6-6-0.” ‘Uggins, indeed, and very salty too. Uncommon, COPAC has V & A and the Courtauld only, OCLC adds copies at the Bibliothèque d’Art et Archéologie, The Getty Research Institute, the Mariners’ Museum Library and the University of Sydney.
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Octavo. (209 133mm) Later half calf on marbled boards. Contemporary ownership inscription to the title page, “R. Boys.” Folding lithographic frontispiece. Some foxing to the endpapers, light browning, externally a little worn with some stripping from the boards, about very good.