E.W. Cooke exhibited a precocious talent from an early age. Son of the engraver, George Cooke, he trained under his father learning the methods of engraving in the company of a succession of his father's apprentices, including Thomas Shotter Boys. This was to influence his draughtmanship which became the dominant feature of his art.
Celebrated as a maritime painter, he often painted scenes depicting Dutch barges or 'pincks', sometimes signing them 'Van Kook', such as the work offered above. As his nickname '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. After her unfortunate early death three years later, he left England for a tour of Europe. Travelling to Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, North Africa and Scandinavia, he recorded his observations in the form of a sketchbook, which he later worked up into paintings on his return to England. His early oil paintings clearly show his capacity to combine precise detail with a strong sense of atmosphere.
This particular work clearly illustrates Cooke's meticulous attention to detail; from the smooth glassy ripples on the water and the rigging of the pincks, to the intricacy of detail to the boat's gear and tackle.