Carmichael painted many Dutch scenes and as a young man he visited Holland with his friend and fellow artist George Balmer. In the 1820s at the Northern Academy of Arts, in his native city Newcastle on Tyne, three of the first paintings he ever exhibited were Dutch views; and in the 1860's one of his last was of 'Fishing Vessels in a Calm off Port Texel'. It was dated 1865 and this painting is quite likely to be somewhere in this northern area of Holland.
To ensure the high degree of accuracy when portraying the details of his vessels, Carmichael maintained an extensive 'library' of sketches and studies that he would refer to when necessary. The Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle possess nearly 400 of these sketches by Carmichael and there are at least double that number that are attributed to him. A number of these are of Dutch scenes and Dutch vessels.
In 1846, Carmichael made the decision to move from Newcastle and go to London. It was a brave step for he and his wife Mary had eight children to care for and he had to auction some of his books to cover the travel expenses. This picture was painted two years later and there is no doubt that a work of this size must have been a commission. This is not what Carmichael would have referred to as a 'pot boiler', nor is it one of his 'little sea-pieces'.
It is a typical Carmichael composition, with many human touches; the fishermen (with their distinctive Carmichael red hats) are settling their boats for the night and hurrying home, and there is plenty of what he called 'flotsam' in the foreground to interest the viewer. The weed, the posts and the wet rocks are all executed with the same attention to detail. He had also used that fiery, orange ball of a setting sun before, to give his paintings atmosphere at sunset.
The plate 'J W Carmichael RA' is not strictly correct, while by 1848 he had already exhibited eight paintings at the Royal Academy (in all he showed twenty-one paintings), he was never actually elected to the Academy. There were no Dutch scenes among them, but at the British Institution, in 1861, he showed one entitled 'A Scene in Holland'.
Christie's are most grateful to Diana Villar, author of John Wilson Carmichael 1799-1868, published 1995, for her help in cataloguing this lot.