Carmichael was a marine painter from Newcastle. He mainly exhibited at the Northern Academy of Arts, although he also showed at the Royal Academy from 1835-59. He travelled extensively in Holland, Italy and the Baltic, but his preferred subjects were of British maritime scenes.
Bamburgh Castle by Moonlight is a typically atmospheric example of the artist's style. The lustrous yet misty night sky and darkening clouds provide a fitting setting for a castle steeped in history. Embedded high on a basalt outcrop overlooking the infamously hazardous North Sea, Bamburgh Castle dominated the coastal stretch of Northumberland from as far back as the 6th Century AD. Following the Norman Conquest it remained crown property until Elizabeth I gave the castle and lands to Claudius Forster for his role in warding off Scottish invasions.
By the mid-eighteenth century Bamburgh was sold to Lord Crewe, Bishop of Durham, who restored and modified the buildings for charitable causes, establishing a system of signals between the castle and Holy Island for the protection of seafarers. It is in this state that Carmichael would have found the castle when he painted the present picture in 1840. Bamburgh received its final extensive restoration during the latter half of the nineteenth Century when it was purchased by Lord Armstrong, though it essentially appears today as it did to the artist.