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William John Huggins



William John Huggins was born in 1781 in England. Huggins was a sailor for the East India Company, although his only recorded voyage was in December, 1812, onboard the Perseverance sailing to Bombay and China. On his return, Huggins settled in London and established himself as a marine painter. Huggins was regularly employed to paint carefully detailed pictures of the East India Company’s ships or captains, owners, and employees, and similar shipping and naval subjects, including in watercolors., the British Institution, and Suffolk Street. Huggins appears to have had some assistance from Thomas Duncan, a ship decorator, print colourist, and art teacher. Thomas’ son, Edward Duncan, a member of the Old Watercolour Society, subsequently collaborated with Huggins as a lithographer, reproducing about 150 of Huggins’ works. Edward also married Huggins’ eldest daughter, Berthia, in 1834. South Sea Whale Fishery (1834) shows Huggins’ distinctive smooth finish as well as his silvery and sometimes muted color palette. His precisely detailed work provides an essential record of nineteenth-century ships. Even Though Huggins was dismissed by an art critic in 1856, King William IV (the “sailor king”) appointed Huggins his royal marine painter. William IV esteemed the correctness of Huggins’s work rather than than its style. Huggins died in London on May 18th, 1845 at the age of 64.

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