The paintings of Peter Monamy provide an accurate record of maritime history during the first half of the eighteenth century. His early style was considerably influenced by Willem van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707), some of whose works he copied.
Born in London in 1681, the youngest son of a Guernseyman, Monamy was apprenticed to William Clarke, a member of the Painter Stainers' Company; he became a Freeman of the Company in 1704. Monamy’s professional training was in house decoration and comprised the decoration of ceilings, painting canvases for wall panels, sign painting and gilding.
In 1736 Monamy, together with William Hogarth and Francis Hayman, were commissioned to assist in the decorations of the newly-opened pleasure gardens at Vauxhall; all four of his paintings were subsequently engraved. Encouraged by Hogarth, Monamy also produced a major port scene for Thomas Coram's Foundling Hospital (whereabouts now unknown).
Monamy painted storms, calms, Thames views and naval actions, working on canvas, panel and copper; he also etched and engraved. George Vertue noted with approval Monamy’s ‘constant practice….his industry and understanding in the forms and buildings of shipping with all the tackles, ropes and sails….his neatness and clean pencilling of sky and water….his many excursions to the coasts and seaports of England to improve himself from nature’.
Monamy produced work for the Royal family, for the aristocracy and gentry (including the Byngs, a powerful naval family), for City merchants and livery halls. Taking up a tradition which he had inherited from Dutch painters, the van de Veldes, Monamy nurtured an English school of marine painting and paved the way for Charles Brooking, Nicholas Pocock and later artists. Monamy’s daughter married the marine painter Francis Swaine and his grandson was another marine artist, Monamy Swaine.
The work of Peter Monamy is represented in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich; the National Gallery, Dublin; the City Art Gallery, Glasgow; the Painter Stainers’ Company, London; the National Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.