SAPER GALLERIES

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John Bentham-Dinsdale
(1927-2008)

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Don't Give Up the Ship
The Battle of Lake Erie, 10th September 1813
Original oil painting on canvas
24 x 36"
Signed by the artist, lower left
Signed and titled by the artist on the back of the canvas
Please inquire

In the first unqualified defeat of a British naval squadron in history, U.S. Captain Oliver Hazard Perry leads a fleet of nine American ships to victory over a squadron of six British warships at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.

The battle was closely contested for hours, and Perry's flagship Lawrence was reduced to a defenseless wreck. He then transferred to the Niagara and sailed directly into the British line, firing broadsides and forcing the British to surrender. Perry had won a complete victory at the cost of 27 Americans killed and 96 wounded; British casualties were 40 dead and 94 wounded. After the battle, Perry sent a famous dispatch to U.S. General William Henry Harrison that read, "We have met the enemy, and they are ours." The Battle of Lake Erie forced the British to abandon Detroit, ensuring U.S. control over Lake Erie and the territorial northwest.

The Naval History Blog has a fascinating recounting and more detail about this important engagement here.

The United States Postal Service commemorated the 200 year anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie with this stamp described on this panel.




Two Ships Engaged at Sea
The Start of a War
"Action between the frigate Arethusa and the French frigate Belle Poule 17 June 1778.
The engagement that prompted Louis to declare war against Great Britain."


Original oil painting on canvas
20 x 24"
Signed by the artist , lower left
Signed and titled by the artist and described on the back of the canvas
Please inquire

On 17 June 1778, the British Arethusa fought a famous duel against the French, 26-gun frigate, Belle Poule. The Belle Poule was on a reconnaissance mission, along with the 26-gun frigate Licorne, the corvette Hirondelle and the smaller Coureur when she encountered a large British squadron that included the Arethusa at a point 23 miles south of The Lizard.  Admiral Keppel, commanding the British fleet ordered that the French ships be pursued and returned to his flagship by any means.

The Licorne did so, after being overhauled by two British ships. She subsequently tried to escape during the night, but surrendered after a brief combat with HMS America.

Meanwhile, the Arethusa and the cutter Alert reached the Belle Poule, accompanied by the French cutter Le Courier. The captain of the Belle Poule refused the order to sail back to the British fleet. The British fired a warning shot across his ship's bow, to which he responded with a full broadside. This began a furious, two hour battle between the two ships that resulted in the deaths of the French second captain and 30 of the crew. But the Arethusa was crippled by the loss of a mast and had to withdraw, allowing the Belle Poule to escape. Meanwhile Alert captured Le Courier in a separate battle.

This battle was the first between British and French naval forces during the American Revolutionary War and took place around three weeks before the formal declaration of war by France. Admiral Keppel himself was surprised by the reaction of the French captains as he only intended to speak with them, and then release their ships.

The battle was widely celebrated in France as a victory. It was also viewed as a victory in Britain and became the subject of a traditional Sea shanty, The Saucy Arethusa.




US and Clippers Exchanging Fire
The Constitution and Java, 29th December 1812
Original oil painting on canvas
30 x 40"
Signed by the artist, lower left
Signed and titled by the artist on the back of the canvas
Please inquire

The clash between USS Constitution and HMS Java was the third American frigate victory of the War of 1812 and in many ways the most significant. In the two previous clashes, between the Constitution and the Guerrière in August and the United States and the Macedonian in October, the British had been very badly outgunned and out-manned.

In contrast, the Java was a well manned and well gunned ship. In December 1812 she was on her way to India, carrying the new governor of Bombay, his staff, and 100 extra sailors being sent to the East Indies as reinforcements. This gave her a crew of just over 400 compared to the 475 on the Constitution.

The Constitution had sailed from Boston in late October under the command of Captain William Bainbridge, to cruise in southern waters. The clash with the Java came off the coast of Brazil. The fighting began at 2:00pm with a long range artillery duel. The Constitution’s wheel was shot away, and at one point she was raked from the stern, but her heavy construction allowed her to absorb the damage. She was soon back under control, and after 40 minutes began to close on the British ship. The Java took heavy damage as the two ships approached and was then overwhelmed at close range.

Her captain, Henry Lambert, was mortally wounded by rifle fire from the Constitution’s masts, and the Java suffered over 100 casualties before she struck her flag after a two hour fight. The Java was too badly damaged to take as a prize, and so on the day after the battle she was sunk. This time the British could not blame a lack of men. They had inflicted more damage on the American ship than in either of the previous battles (the Constitution took 34 casualties), but the battle had demonstrated that a single British frigate, never mind how well manned, could not defeat one of three American 44 gun frigates.

The clash between the Constitution and the Java was the last of the single-frigate duels of the War of 1812. The Admiralty ordered single frigates not to take on the bigger American ships, built their own big gun frigates, and imposed a blockade on the American coast. The next time the American frigates got to sea, the war was nearly over. These early naval victories had very little long term impact on the war itself, but they did have a big impact in Britain, triggering a wave of self-examination which jolted the navy out of it’s post-Trafalgar complacency.



John Bentham-Dinsdale
(Born in Yorkshire, England in 1927; died in 2008)


Dinsdale painted the sea and great ships of the era when “Britannia ruled the waves” with her fleets of clipper and fighting ships whose huge white sails took men across the seas of the world. Dinsdale loved both the sea and the ships and professed he really only felt at home on the blustery east coast of England near the sea that he loved and painted so well.

Dinsdale’s early years gave no indication that he would eventually be an artist, nor that he would excel as a marine painter. His mother was one of the many daughters of J.H. Bentham, a liberal social reformer; his father was a wine merchant. After attending Ashville College, Dinsdale spent five years at the School of Architecture in Leeds, graduating with a Dip. Arch, A.R.I.B.A. During World War II, he was a Commissioned Officer and pilot in the Royal Air Force.

When the war ended, Dinsdale found work in the theatre, which had always been a passion of his. He designed scenery for a number of repertory companies in London’s West End and, at one point, ran his own company. An opening in British television came along and in 1956, he was made Assistant Designer with Associated Television in London. Three years later, he was Head of Design and Construction for Tyne Tees Television on Newcastle.

Dinsdale had been painting virtually since he could hold a brush, but it was not until 1965, having moved back to Yorkshire, that he made a full-time commitment to marine painting and historical research.

A founding member of the British Sea Painters Group in 1970, Dinsdale is included in Marine Painting by Omell and 20th Century British Marine Painters by D. Brooke-Hart. His work has been widely exhibited in Europe, Australia, Canada, the United States and the Far East.

Dinsdale had his first one-man show in London in 1974. Sir Charles Cayzer bought one of his paintings and presented it to the H.M.S. Camperdown, a 19th-century Royal Navy battleship. In 1982, a painting by Dinsdale was accepted and hung in the Vancouver Municipal Galleries, and his work was listed and illustrated in the Dictionary of 20th Century Marine Art.

Dinsdale’s wide-ranging research resulted in him painting not only English clipper ships, but American ones as well. Aided by his extensive marine library, he would make a few preliminary sketches, before developing his canvases. The sea in all its’ moods is shown in his paintings. The water has depth and sparkle; it pulses with movement and light under the action of the wind. The ships rest solidly in the water even as they careen under the force of the wind and waves, and are accurately depicted down to the detail of their rigging and accoutrements. John Bentham-Dinsdale carried on the English tradition of masterly marine painting.

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