This picture is a fascinating discovery, being a major addition to the small group of Pre-Raphaelite landscapes that Hemy painted early in his career. It is infact of exactly the same date as Among the Shingle at Clovelly (Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle), which is always regarded as his masterpiece in this style, and shows a similar intensity of feeling and delicacy of technique.
Hemy's early development was complex. Born in Newcastle, he entered the local School of Design in 1852, encountering William Bell Scott, who was then the Master. During the mid-1850s it was touch and go whether he would be a painter at all since he toyed with the idea of becoming a Roman Catholic priest and in the summer of 1856 suddenly went off to sea on a collier brig. By 1859, however, his career as a sailor was over, and by his twenty-first birthday in May 1862 he had realised that he had no vocation for the priesthood either. Returning from a stay in the Dominican monastery at Lyons, he finally settled down to painting, developing the seeds of Pre-Raphaelite influence sown ten years before by Bell Scott by studying the works of Millais, Holman Hunt, Madox Brown and Dyce at the International Exhibition of 1862. This experience, together with his reading of Ruskin, led him to adopt the detailed Pre-Raphelite style seen in Among the Shingle at Clovelly and the present picture.
This phase was not to last. By the mid-1860s he was painting atmospheric landscapes under the influence of George Pinwell, Fred Walker and J.W. North, and in 1867 he went to Antwerp to study under Baron Leys. A product of this period, very close to Leys in style, indeed actually worked on by him, was offered in these Rooms on 25 October 1991, lot 40. It was only after he had returned to England following Ley's death in August 1869 that he began to develop his familiar mature style, a bold painterly technique applied to marine subjects.
For further details of Hemy's early career, see the catalogue of the Hemy Exhibition, Newcastle and Plymouth, 1984.