William Adolphus Knell, The Wreck

Photo courtesy of Dave Penman (All rights reserved)


Country House
The Wreck
? c.1850s
Medium and support
Oil on canvas
Overall height: 48 cm, Overall width: 75 cm
William Adolphus Knell (1801-1875)
Catalogue Number


William Adolphus Knell was a prolific painter of marine subjects. Born at Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wright, he began to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1825 and showed works there regularly, as well as at the British Institution and Society of British Artists. In 1841 Prince Albert purchased Knell’s painting of his arrival by steamer the previous year at Dover for his wedding to Queen Victoria (Kensington Palace, RCIN 407161). The journey, which took more than five hours in a gale-force wind, was depicted by Knell in suitably stormy weather. In 1847 he exhibited The Battle off Cape St Vincent, 14 February 1797 at Westminster Hall (Parliamentary Art Collection, WOA 3060). By the 1860s Knell was based in St Pancras, London. He died at his home in Kentish Town in 1875. His sons, William Calcott Knell (1830–1880) and Adolphus Knell (fl. 1860) were also marine painters.

The depiction of shipwrecks and storm-tossed shipping featured prominently in Knell’s oeuvre, and the present picture can be compared with a similar composition in Tunbridge Wells Museum and Art Gallery, dating from 1856 (1952.86.3).

by Martin Postle

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