The Needles, Isle of Wight
Oil on canvas; inscribed 'by Keeley Halswelle' on stretcher
20 x 29½ inches
Royal Scottish Academy, 1860, no. 68
Halswelle was brought up in Richmond, Surrey, but he began his career in Edinburgh and did not exhibit at the Royal Academy in London until he was 30. He painted this early work when he was 28, working in the manner of the coastal painter Peter Graham. His best pictures have a theatrical sense of scale about them. After his marriage in 1861 and a trip to Italy in search of commercial subjects, he painted continental scenes, but in the 1880s he started to paint landscapes of Scotland and the Thames Valley in a looser, much more dramatic manner, and found his métier. He lived then on a houseboat on the Thames, painting hundreds of plein air sketches, many of which have ended up in the V&A.