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George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson
‘The White Squadron in Cork Harbour’, September 30th 1843
1843, oil on canvas, 86 x 132 cm

Subtitled ‘An event in the history of Ireland — ‘Two Admirals in command and three first rate ships in the Cove of Cork’, this painting depicts the visit of the White Squadron to Cork from August to September 1843.

This visit coincided with the 13th annual meeting of the British Association in Cork, which began on 13th August 1843.
On 26th August the Illustrated LondonNews reported:
‘The Cove presented a very animated appearance and just previously a series of grand fetes were given on board several of the ships of war lying here. That on board the Tyne (the admiral’s ship) was on a very grand scale, nearly 300 of the elite of the town and neighbourhood of the Cove assembled and continued the merry dance until morning. The vessel was very tastefully fitted up, having a spacious saloon on the deck and on the gun deck a splendid supper was laid out.
However, by September, when Atkinson painted this work, Tyne was no longer in Cork. The ships depicted in Atkinson’s painting are Caledonian (I20 guns), Camperdoiun (I04 guns) and St Vincent (120 guns).
The admiral of the White Squadron was Sir Charles Rowley, and the white flag on St Vincent, shown stern view, indicates this was his Flagship (the use of squadron colours continued until 1864). The St Vincent was a three-deck battleship, with a high, ornate stern. It is shown here surrounded by pinnaces, a paddle steamer and a cutter.
The second admiral was William Bowles, rear admiral of the Blue Squadron, but presumably his flag is not
seen as his ship was part of Rowley’s squadron.

The painting was exhibited at the RHA the following year, where it failed to sell, but it was purchased for £25 in the 1845 Art Union exhibition. The scene depicted in the painting corresponds to a description of the event in the Illustrated London News:

On Friday, at one o’clock p.m. the town of Cove presented an animated appearance when it became known that the expected ships of war were making the harbour, and crowds of persons mounted the hills, to command a view of the entrance to the port. In a short time the firing of guns announced that they had come within the forts of Camden and Carlisle, and at Z o’clock the St. Vincent 120 guns ship, commanded by Captain R.F. Rowley, and bearing the flag of Admiral Sir C.Rowley, anchored near the spit buoy. The Camperdown 104
guns commanded by Captain F. Brace dropped anchor inside her; and the Caledonia, 120 guns, Captain Alex Milne, and the Euridice, Z5 guns lay outside her. The vessel having the flag of Admiral Bowles, saluted the flag of the admiral of the squadron, by firing 17 guns, which were answered by a similar discharge from the St. Vincent. Cove is now honoured with the presence of two admirals in commission. It is expected that the ships will remain at Cove until the 10th October.

The painting will be included in Woodwards auction on October 22nd with an estimate of €30,000 -€40,000


Atkinson, a one-time ship’s carpenter, inspector of shipping and self-taught marine painter, earned a living depicting Cork’s maritime environs. He specialised in notable events in Cork Harbour; in particular the visit of Queen Victoria, which took place in 1849.
John Maguire said of Atkinson;
“It is a rare thing that an artist comes to his profession with so much real knowledge suited to the peculiar branch to which he devotes himself, as Mr. Atkinson possessed when he first devoted himself to painting. For many years of his life, nay since his boyhood, he had journeyed on the great deep; he had beheld the sea in all its phases, in its terrible grandeur as in its placid beauty; to his mind every craft that floats upon the waters is familiar – he is conversant with the rig of the largest frigate, as of the smallest pilot boat, and knows every block and rope and spar that form that beautiful yet intricate symmetry.”
 
GEORGE MOUNSEY WHEATLEY ATKINSON
 
'The Visit of Queen Victoria to Cork Harbour'

 
 
 
 
Included in Woodwards Auction of antiques & paintings is a historically interesting pictures which shows the Royal Yacht squadron bringing Queen Victoria to Cork Harbour
 
 
Queen Victoria visited Cork briefly in August 1849. In honour of the event, George Mounsey Wheatley Atkinson mounted an exhibition of his maritime paintings in a pavilion in Cove (Cobh), constructed specially for the Royal visit. The artist responded with enthusiasm to the visit, producing several different paintings of the Royal Squadron in the harbour and the landing of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert at the town of Cove itself, which was renamed Queenstown in honour of the event. Apart from a lithograph based on a drawing by one of the ship’s officers (published in aid of the Female Orphan Asylum in Cork), and some wood engravings in the Illustrated London News, Atkinson’s paintings appear to be the only visual record of this visit to have survived.
 
 
Atkinson, a one-time ship’s carpenter, inspector of shipping and self-taught marine painter, earned a living depicting Cork’s maritime environs. He specialised in notable events in Cork Harbour; in particular the visit of Queen Victoria, which took place in 1849.
 
 
John Maguire said of Atkinson;
 
 
“It is a rare thing that an artist comes to his profession with so much real knowledge suited to the peculiar branch to which he devotes himself, as Mr. Atkinson possessed when he first devoted himself to painting. For many years of his life, nay since his boyhood, he had journeyed on the great deep; he had beheld the sea in all its phases, in its terrible grandeur as in its placid beauty; to his mind every craft that floats upon the waters is familiar – he is conversant with the rig of the largest frigate, as of the smallest pilot boat, and knows every block and rope and spar that form that beautiful yet intricate symmetry.”


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