'The greatest of the war artist-correspondents'. Huon Mallalieu's verdict on William Simpson's career is well-justified. The Crimean War was his first important assignment. Simpson was sent to the Baltic by P. and D. Colnaghi, to record the naval battles which heralded the beginning of the war, and subsequently to the Crimea itself. He was under commission to make drawings for the publisher Day and Son, and on his return, in 1855, published a set of two volumes entitled The Seat of War in the East, dedicated to Queen Victoria. He also collaborated with fellow war artists Carlo Bossoli and George Frederick Cadogan in the compilation of Souvenirs of the Crimean War: an album of sixteen original watercolours and drawings, 1854-6.
Sevastopol (or 'Sebastopol', as it is known in English) is a city on the Crimean peninsular, and was the main naval base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Its capture was the key Allied objective at the war's outset. Aggrieved by Russia's refusal to protect Christian Turks, and suspicious of Russian initiatives within Turkey herself, they felt that its destruction would secure Turkey's continued independence. From September 1854 an Anglo-French force laid siege for a year, supported by Cavour's Piedmontese army. Russian fortifications were strong however, and the issue was only partially resolved when the Treaty of Paris (1856) demilitarised the city. By 1871 the Russians had begun reconstructing their base.
Watercolour sketches of Sevastopol, dating from Simpson's trip, rarely come on the market. This is a particularly fresh example, demonstrating Simpson's proficiency with his medium.