Elder son of the renowned artist William Adolphus Knell, William Calcott Knell received an education from his father in British maritime painting alongside his younger brother, Adolphus Knell. William Adolphus Knell himself received royal patronage and awards for his work; his sons likewise attained great success. From 1848 through 1862, William Calcott Knell exhibited his work at the distinguished Royal Academy, the British Institution, and the Society of British Arts. His style at this time also grew freer in technique; his brushstrokes became more languid and his seas more transparent. Critics today appreciate his work for its deftness in capturing the changing ambiances of the day through subtle use of color.
This canvas pair, attributed to Calcott Knell by Sotheby’s – London, illustrates his expert use of light and color: the painting on the left depicts the departure of fishing boats at dawn while the right reproduces the same boats in the full-colored afternoon. Notice especially the differences in sea and sky. In the seascape at dawn, Calcott Knell limits his palette to a muted yellow green for the waves, a pale pink and blue wash for the morning sky. Even the fishing boats betray softer edges towards the horizon; this piece possesses a golden expressionistic quality. The afternoon seascape in contrast retains a more colorful range in palette: the waves are a richer blue green, the fishing boats darker and more distinct against a bluer sky. The sailboat to the left foreground, apparently replicated from the dawn seascape at a different angle, suggest that Calcott Knell painted both works from perhaps the same shoreline. Seemingly the same taller fishing craft with unfurled sails can additionally be marked in the backgrounds of each.
Considering the obvious parallels in subjects, this pair of nineteenth-century oil on canvas paintings may be best appreciated from the same home library or office, and perhaps also in complement to Calcott Knell’s father’s and brother’s work. An oil on canvas entitled “The Storm” by William Adolphus Knell and a signed oil on board painting by Adolphus Knell are also available for sale.
Dimensions with each frame: H= 16 in., W= 28 in., D=2 in. , 5 lbs. each
Dimensions of each canvas only: H= 12.25 in. W= 24.25 in.