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 John Thomas Serres  (1759 - 1823/25)

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Lived/Active: United Kingdom/France      Known for: marine painting

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from Auction House Records.
The blowing up of the Spanish Frigate Mercedes at the Battle of Cape Santa Maria, 1804
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
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SERRES, JOHN THOMAS (1759–1825), marine-painter, elder son of Dominic Serres, was born in December 1759, and followed his father's profession. He was for some time drawing-master to a marine school at Chelsea. In 1780 he began to exhibit at the Royal Academy, sending two watercolor views and a painting of Sir George Rodney engaging the Spanish squadron. In 1790 he went to Italy, visiting Paris, Lyons, Marseilles, Genoa, Pisa, Florence, and Rome, where he passed five months, and then proceeded to Naples. After an absence of a little more than a year, he was recalled to England by a letter from Miss Olive Wilmot, the daughter of a house painter at Warwick, to whom he had engaged himself before he left England, and whom he married, against the wishes of his friends, 17 Sept. 1791.
In 1793 he succeeded his father as marine-painter to the king, and was also appointed marine draughtsman to the admiralty. In the latter capacity he was frequently employed in making sketches of the harbours on the enemy's coast, and had a vessel appointed for his service, receiving 100l. a month when on duty. He also contributed regularly (chiefly shipping and marine subjects) to the exhibitions of the Royal Academy until 1808. In 1801 he published a translation of The Little Sea-torch, a guide for coasting ships, illustrated by a large number of colored aquatints, and in 1805 his Liber Nauticus, or instructor in the art of marine-drawing.
He saved a good deal of money, but was ruined by the intrigues and extravagance of his wife. He was separated from her (by deed) in 1804, and in 1808 went to Edinburgh to escape the persecutions to which he was still subjected from her, ceasing to contribute to the Royal Academy for seven years. But it was of no avail; he was arrested and thrown into prison, and, the same round of persecutions continuing, he was driven to make an attempt at suicide, which was happily frustrated.

The failure of the speculation for building the Coburg Theatre, in which he had invested 2000l. of his savings, obliged him to take advantage of the Insolvent Act. He exhibited again at the Royal Academy in 1817, and occasionally exhibited there and elsewhere till his death; but his wife's pretensions to be Princess Olive of Cumberland, though they received no support from him, had deprived him of the royal favour, which he never regained. Teaching now became his chief occupation and support. Broken in spirit and health, he labored on in prison until he became seriously ill with a tumor. He was moved into the rules of the king's bench, but the removal hastened his death, which took place on 28 Dec. 1825. In his will he declared his wife's pretensions to be wholly without foundation. He was buried beside his father. He was a clever artist, and his pictures have lasted much better than his father's.
Some watercolor drawings by John Thomas Serres, and a View of the Lighthouse in the Bay of Dublin, with His Majesty's Yacht, Dorset, in oils, dated 1788, are in the South Kensington Museum.
His younger brother, Dominic, landscape-painter and drawing-master, exhibited nine works at the Royal Academy between 1778 and 1804, but late in life fell into a hopeless despondency, lost his employment, and was supported by his brother.

An exculpatory memoir by ‘A Friend,’ 1826; Redgrave's Dict.; Graves's (Algernon) Dict.; Redgraves' Century; Cat. of Oil Pictures in South Kensington Museum.]

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

John Thomas Serres
(1759 – 1825)

John Thomas Serres (December 1759 – 28 December 1825) was an English maritime painter who enjoyed significant success, including exhibiting extensively at the Royal Academy, and was for a time Maritime Painter to King George III.

John Thomas Serres was born in London in December 1759 to Dominic Serres, a prominent painter and a founder of the Royal Academy. Instructed by his father, John was involved in the publication of the maritime painter's guide Liber Nauticus and the younger Serres had soon developed a successful independent painting career, the Royal Academy and British Institution exhibiting over 100 of his paintings over his lifetime. He also became Master of Drawing at the Royal Naval College in Chelsea and in 1793 was made Marine Painter to the King after his father's death.[1]
Serres' successful career was badly damaged in the early 19th century by the activities of his wife Olivia Serres, who came to believe that she was the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Cumberland and publicly pressed her "claim" to his estate, insisting on being addressed as "Princess Olive of Cumberland".

Consequently out of favour at court, Serres was forced to attempt to recoup his losses by investing in the theatre, setting up the Royal Coburg Theatre in 1818 that eventually became known as the "Old Vic". However his wife's activities again ruined him and he died in December 1825 in a London debtors' prison.[1]
His daughter Lavinia Ryves spent most of her life continuing to unsuccessfully press her mother's "claim" on the estate of King George III, even managing to take it to the House of Lords.
1. "Biography of John Thomas Serres (1759–1825)". Maritime Art Greenwich. National Maritime Museum. Retrieved 17 January 2010.

References: This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: "Serres, John Thomas". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900. Further reading: Hargraves, Matthew. Great British watercolors: from the Paul Mellon collection at the Yale University Collection (Yale University Press, 2007) p. 32 ff.

J T Serres online (ArtCyclopedia)

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