Francis Swaine was baptized on 22nd June 1719 at St Botolph's, Aldgate, London, possibly the son of Francis Swaine and his wife, Ann, although his exact date of birth is unknown. However, by 1735 he was working as a messenger for the Navy Board as in that year his name appears in a list of clerks and officers employed by the Treasurer and Commissioners of His Majesty's Navy. It is not clear exactly how he came to be a marine painter, but time spent in the naval offices must have been an influence. Perhaps it was through these connections that he met Peter Monamy, whose eldest daughter Mary, Swaine married on 29th June 1749 at All Hallows, London. Like his father-in-law Swaine's style derived from the school of Willem van de Velde II (1633-1707), and he was also influenced by the work of his contemporaries Charles Brooking (1723-1759) and, in particular, by Monamy (1681-1749) for whom he has often been mistaken.
Swaine enjoyed a considerable reputation in his day, and was awarded premiums by the Society of Arts in 1764 and 1765. He exhibited largely with both the Incorporated Society of Artists and the Free Society of Artists from 1762 until his death in 1782, sending chiefly studies of shipping in both calm and stormy seas, harbour views, and naval engagements, often on a small scale. He also took commissions for actions, and his paintings demonstrate an informed knowledge of British ships of the period. As testimony to this, several of his works, including a series of plates of Anglo-French actions, were engraved by P.C. Canot, P.P. Benazech and others.
This lively and engaging painting of the fleet, presumably off the Downs, shows the direct influence of van de Velde and Monamy on Swaine's composition but the colouring, especially the pink tinge to the sky, is characteristic of Swaine's palette. On a much larger scale than much of his output, the picture shows Swaine's technical ability to great effect.