My favourite painting: Mark Dowie

Mark Dowie of the RNLI makes an appropriately nautical choice: Cochrane’s Compensation by John Chancellor.

Mark Dowie on his choice of Cochrane’s Compensation by John Chancellor

‘My choice of a sea painting is predictable! I have had a fascination with all things nautical since turning the first page of Mr Midshipman Hornblower at the age of 10. From then, it was inevitable that I would start my working life in the Royal Navy.

‘At the other end of my career, I remain firmly attached to the sea at the helm of the RNLI. I love the exquisite detail here: the light and the feeling of what is to come just beyond the next headland. Chancellor’s skill with the brush and his meticulous research take me to the quarterdeck of a Royal Navy frigate off the Azores in 1804 — a good place to be.’

Mark Dowie is chief executive of the RNLI and a former naval officer and company director. He served as Lifeboat Operations Manager at Salcombe Lifeboat Station, Devon, for two years.

John McEwen comments on Cochrane’s Compensation

John Chancellor’s naval hero was Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald — called Le Loup des Mers by Napoleon — a hero of the Napoleonic Wars, founder and commander of the navies of Chile and Brazil, an instigator of Peruvian independence and an inspirer of C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower and Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey. Chancellor was ‘closer to the stereotype seaman than the artist, which is how he would wish it’.

Born in Portugal, his father was an international lawyer, his mother a commercial artist. At six, he returned to England, to attend Wycliffe College in Gloucestershire and the London Polytechnic Art School. As a merchant seaman in the Second World War, he survived two torpedo attacks. After the war, he joined a tug and barge company before owning a trawler. He later converted a French vessel for hydrographic work.

Chancellor won boyhood medals from The Drawing Society, but it was not until 1973 that he exhibited his marine paintings, all of which sold at the preview. He provided an explanation of each picture. Of Cochrane’s Compensation, he wrote that, in 1801, Cochrane’s capture of 50 ships off Spain with a small brig was ‘one of the most brilliant single-ship campaigns ever recorded’.

A dispute with the Admiralty denied Cochrane promotion to command a frigate, which did not come till 1804 when Viscount Melville, a fellow Scot, instructed him by Admiralty letter to intercept enemy shipping off the Azores in the frigate Pallas. The letter meant prize money went to the ship’s company. Two valuable prizes earned him a fortune. This painting shows Pallas closing on the Azores island of St Maria, where the crews of the two enemy ships were disembarked.