Born into a family of successful maritime painters, Adolphus Knell was the younger son of William Adolphus Knell and brother to William Calcott Knell. He and William were separately mentored by their father, an artist who had achieved royal patronage and awards even before Adolphus’s birth in 1849. In consequence of this education, there is a certain family resemblance apparent between the elder and younger Knell’s work: their subjects involve thrilling seascapes and coastlines, somber color palettes lend austerity to tension, and characteristic swabs of wide brushstrokes become rough waves.
Nonetheless, Adolphus’s individual development as a painter did lead to some deviance in style. This particular piece, for example, highlights the artist’s innovative use of materials: although his father employed the traditional canvas, Adolphus preferred to paint on wooden panels. The harder surface allowed him to achieve a higher level of detail than his father’s work; notice the delicate attention to the sailors’ features and the ships’ rigging. Adolphus also favored more widely flowing brushstrokes, a choice that lends this piece’s clouds and waves a surprising softness. From the right of the painting looms some dark mass, the waves are rough, and yet the muted yellow-green palette calms the emergent sense of tension: this is the gentle moment before sunrise. Only the red buoy, bobbing with eye-catching warmth in bottom center, presages the day and its difficulties to come.
A subtle and sober addition to any home library or office, this painting by Adolphus Knell would perhaps be best admired in complement of his father’s and brother’s work. Two oil paintings attributed to William Calcott Knell and a signed oil on canvas by William Adolphus Knell are also available for sale.
Dimensions with frame: H= 19 in., W= 25 in., D=2 in. , 5 lbs.
Dimensions of canvas only: H= 12 in. W= 18 in.