E. W. Cooke showed a precocious talent from an early age. He was the son of George Cooke, engraver of such artists of the age as John Sell Cotman, James Stark and George Clarkson Stanfield.
E.W. Cooke trained under his father and uncle as an engraver; he showed such skill and attention to detail that, at age 14, George Clarkson Stanfield asked Cooke to make some drawings of ships and nautical equipment.
E. W. Cooke's early oil paintings clearly show his capacity to instil precise detail with a real sense of atmosphere. Renowned as a maritime painter, he often painted scenes depicting Dutch sail barges or 'pincks'. As his nickname of 'Dutch Cooke' suggests, he was greatly influenced by Willem Van de Velde the Younger (1633-1707) and the Greenwich School of Maritime Painters.
In 1840, Cooke married Jane Loggides. Unfortunately, she died three years later and Cooke left England for a tour of Europe. Whilst taking in Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, North Africa and Scandinavia he created a considerable sketch book, some of which he worked up into paintings, once back in England.
This painting illustrates succinctly Cooke's meticulous attention to detail; from the smooth glassy ripples on the water and the rigging of the ship, to the small gull, just breaking the water as it takes flight.
Cooke first visited Venice in 1850, it left a lasting impression, he records in his diary how he was struck by its beauty;
'When the boat entered the Grand Canal, after passing the Salute the moon rose and revealed the glories of the scene, but the Piazza exceeded all that I could possibly have imagined'.