S. Francis Smitheman

 

 Smitheman1web        Smitheman2web  

 

Stanley Francis Smitheman, ATD BA Hons FRSA,(1927-2016)  a world renowned marine artist lived and painted at  Les Mouettes, (formerly "Penshurst") 30 Steyne Road Seaford from 1976.His work had already been shown in London, the provinces, in France, Norway, Sweden and the USA. He attended the Birmingham Oratory School from the age of 5, leaving at 14 to start work. While at school he was a member of the Choir and became Head Boy. He commenced work in an aircraft factory working on the designs of Hurricane and Lancaster aircraft. At 18 in early 1945 he was called up for National Service, training as a flight engineer. However the cessation of hostilities put an end to the training and he became a miner. Studying in the evening he obtained the entry qualifications for Birmingham College of Art, followed by an Art Teacher's Diploma Course. His further studies as a painter included a Scholarship to Paris, and later he took a second degree in the History of European Art at the Courtauld Institute, University of London.  

The Battle Of Trafalgar Decisive Action 1805web

The Battle of Trafalgar Decisive Action 1805 

The Windjammer Passat near Tower Bridge 1930 Smitheman web

The Windjammer Passat near Tower Bridge 1930

 His works are to be found in many private collections, on board ships and in museums. His later career included lecturing at graduate level and a number of years designing for the theatre. Smitheman's work is notable for the series of paintings he has undertaken on a number of themes ;including: Sea Battles; the Port of London; Arctic Exploration; Working Ports and Epic Voyages. Much travelled he consulted curators, ships' captains, and marine archaeologists gathering evidence in order to create genuine 'history paintings'. Working with ships' trusts and museums he re-created many of the world's greatest historic ships in their legendary settings. His work has now travelled world wide, not only as finished paintings but also on a series of postage stamps. Eleven countries (Ascension Island,Nauru,British India Ocean Territory, Tristan da Cunha, Gibraltar,Kiribati, Bahamas, Bermuda, Cayman Islands, St.Helena and Jamaica) marked 200 years since the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 by issuing commemorative stamps incorporating detail from Smitheman's painting "Victory leading the line at  the Battle of Trafalgar". The British fleet under Horatio Nelson defeated the combined fleets of France and Spain, blocking their attempt to clear the way for Napoleon's projected invasion of Britain. An unique feature of the stamps is that the wooden hull and spars in the image actually contain tiny quantities of wood from the original Victory. Ironically the stamps were printed by a specialist French company. 


Smitheman Stamps webStamps issued in 2005 for the 200 year commemoration of the Battle of Trafalgar - Victory leading the line at the Battle of Trafalgar

His work as a marine artist has been recognised internationally. On his nomination as L'artiste d'Honneur in France, the 'Voix du Nord' stated: "Like his illustrious predecessor Turner, Smitheman knows the sea and sailing perfectly and endeavours to give his work authenticity. One finds all the world of the sea in his works, the ports, the craft, the human activities on board, tempestuous seas and arctic wastes."

S.Francis Smitheman and his wife Gladys moved to Seaford in 1976 and purchased "Penshurst" in Steyne Road Seaford, renaming it Les Mouettes - (The Seagulls). The house, originally built in 1878 for a Miss Parton, was one of five cottages along the edge of the old river bed, where, before the 15th century, the Ouse entered the sea at Seaford. It is the only one remaining.

                   Penshurst 1890web    Penshurst 1905web

                          Penshurst 1905                                                                          Penshurst 1915

The house,was in need of refurbishment during the course of which, a basement, now below the artist's studio, revealed wall drawings probably the result of war time occupation by Canadian forces billeted there.  A plaque erected by Smitheman on the side of the house provides a short history. Les Mouettes AKA PenshurstThe current occupier, daughter of the Smithemans, states that "Gladys wrote that an elderly neighbour recalled that the 'post lady' used to deliver post for Winston Churchill and his companion at the time of Miss Parton, and that Miss Clementine Hozier was residing in Dieppe at that time". During the 2nd WW, the house was used as Canadian High Command. There is a substantial air raid shelter under the studio, the top of the entrance is still just visible from the driveway. There is a trap door in the Studio floor which I think was a later addition when the original entrance was bricked up.  

Additional notes on the works of S.Francis Smitheman:

Smitheman was invited by the trustees of HMS Warrior (Portsmouth) to paint the ship escorting the Royal Yacht carrying the future Queen Alexandra to marry the Prince of Wales, subsequently Edward the VII.The first print of a Limited Edition was presented to the present Princess Alexandra on board HMS Warrior.

The Chief Executive of the HMS Trincomalee Restoration Project (Hartlepool) advised on a commissioned painting of the ship visiting Jackson Dock in 1862.

MOTT Macdonald (International Civil Engineers) commissioned "Victory Leading the Line at Trafalgar" to mark the merging of two companies. The Artist benefited from the advice of the Keeper and Curator of HMS Victory which enabled him the get the ship very much as she appeared at Trafalgar.  The subsequent print has proved to be a 'Best Seller' at the Royal Naval Museum, Portsmouth.

Smitheman was commissioned by the Trustees of the the SS Great Britain (Bristol) to paint the ship arriving at New York on her maiden voyage in 1845. The Artist visited New York to research the setting. Later he also painted for the Trust the great ship in Hobson's Bay, Melbourne on her first visit to Australia in 1852.

For the 200th anniversary of Trafalgar, the Royal Mint commissioned a newly researched work "The Decisive Action".  This was successfully auctioned on the Internet (a 'first' for the Royal Mint) and followed by a Limited Edition Print. Following this the Royal Mint commissioned "The SS Great Britain arriving at Liverpool from Australia in 1861". This was also auctioned on the Internet and then sold as a Limited Edition Print.

For eleven years, the Artist successfully sold works at Christie's annual Maritime Sales in London.

Over a period of 15 years, Smitheman painted a remarkable series of works depicting significant moments in the voyages of the great explorers of the Antarctica and the Arctic including:

Captain James Cook 1775 (in Resolution and Adventure circumnavigates Antarctica)
Jules Dumont d'Urville 1838 (Astrolabe and Zelee in pack ice near Weddell Island)
Sir James Clark Ross 1841 (Erebus and Terror discover and name Mt Erebus)
A.E.Nordenskold 1878 (Arctic, The North East Passage)
Captain Karl Larsen 1893 (with the Jason in the Lamaire Channel)
Adrien de Gerlache 1898 (The Belgica, near Anvers Island, Graham Land)
Carsten Borchgrevink 1899 (Cape Adare)
Dr. Jean Charcot 1909 (Peterman Island)
Roald Amundsen 1911 (Return from the South Pole)
Captain Robert Scott 1911 (Cape Evans, near Mt Erebus)
Shackleton 1915 (with Endurance trapped in the Weddell Sea)

Fartygsmagasinet (a maritime design specialist company) in Stockholm and Oslo have commissioned, over the years, a number of large works celebrating the great ships of Sweden and Norway including the Vasa, the Gotheborg, the Kronan, the Fram and the Vega. All the works are in print.

 

For more information about the works of S.Francis Smitheman, his book "The Marine Paintings of Smitheman"  is available from the usual sources.


The Marine Paintings of Smitheman Bookweb