Dominic and John Thomas Serres

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Dominic Serres
Dominic Serres' magnificent painting of Elizabeth Castle, undertaken in 1764


Dominic Serres was a French-born artist whose works include a superb early painting of Elizabeth Castle dated 1764, four years before he became one of the founder members of the Royal Academy. He was a frequent visitor to Jersey and a number of his paintings of Mont Orgueil Castle also survive.

Family

Dominic Serres was born in Gascony, France in October 1719 to a wealthy family, who had intended that he should take holy orders. But he rebelled and crossed the border to Spain where he went to sea.

By the time he was 25 he was already in command of a Merchant ship but in the late 1740s, on passage to Havana, his ship was captured by a British frigate.

He was treated as an officer prisoner-of-war until the end of the War of the Austrian Succession in 1748, and when he was released from detention in Marshalsea Prison in London he remained in the capital and married an English woman.

He studied art and was encouraged by the marine artist Charles Brooking. Initially, however, he could not make a living from his home, studio and shop in a derelict wooden building on London Bridge, so he returned to sea, again captaining a merchant vessel on a voyage to Cuba.

Navy commission

Back in London he returned to art and made a breakthrough when a Royal Navy purser, Richard Short, commissioned him to make paintings based on drawings Short had made during the seige of Quebec.

This led to commissions from several important naval commanders who wanted lasting records of their involvement in major battles.

Serres became official marine painter to George III and was the only marine painter among the founding members of the Royal Academy in 1768, and was later briefly (from 1792 until his death the following year) its librarian.

John Thomas Serres

Dominic Serres' son John Thomas Serres was also an artist, who started out by painting landscapes on his travels through Europe, but eventually succeeded his father as George III’s marine painter.

John Thomas Serres died in London’s debtors prison in 1825, having been ruined by his wife’s continuous pressing of a claim to be an heiress of George III.

A stormy day off Mont Orgueil in 1803; John Thomas Serres
HMS Cerebus and Seahorse off Gorey in 1802; John Thomas Serres


Another stormy day off Mont Orgueil; Dominic Serres
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