John Wilson Carmichael, Shipping off Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
Shipping off Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 32 cm, Overall width: 44 cm
John Wilson Carmichael (1800-1862)
Catalogue Number
  • Lower right
  • Signed and dated lower right 'JW Carmichael/ 1844'


The marine painter John Wilson Carmichael was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, the son of a ship’s carpenter. Following his own apprenticeship as a ship’s carpenter, and several years at sea, Carmichael pursued a career as a drawing-master and miniature painter. In his early twenties Carmichael established himself as a marine and landscape painter, exhibiting at the Northumberland Institution for the Promotion of the Fine Arts, and from 1835 at the Royal Academy. He remained in Newcastle until 1845, for much of his career, and later moved to Scarborough, where he died.

Although Carmichael painted a range of marine subjects, views of the north-east coastline were a staple of his art. Dunstanburgh Castle, situated strategically on a headland overlooking the coast, was built in the early fourteenth century by Earl Thomas of Lancaster. Destroyed partially during the Wars of the Roses, it was already by the sixteenth century a virtual ruin. By the late eighteenth century it had become a popular motif for landscape painters, being the subject of watercolours by Thomas Girtin and J. M. W. Turner. Carmichael painted Dunstanburgh on several occasions, as a dramatic backdrop to storm-tossed shipping. A painting entitled A Cutter in Distress to the South of Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland, dated 1865, is in the Mansion House, Newcastle upon Tyne.

by Martin Postle

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