Serres, Dominic (DNB00)

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SERRES, DOMINIC (1722–1793), marine-painter, was born in 1722 at Auch in Gascony, and was educated in the public school there. He is said to have been nephew of the archbishop of Rheims. His parents intended him for the church, but, this not suiting his taste, he ran away from his native town, and made his way on foot into Spain. He there shipped on board a vessel for South America as a common sailor, and eventually became master of a trading vessel to the Havannah, where he was taken prisoner by a British frigate and brought to this country about 1758. After his release he married and lived for a time in Northamptonshire. He had received some instruction in drawing, and commenced life in England as a painter of naval pieces, for which the wars of the period furnished abundance of subjects. He received some assistance from Charles Brooking [q. v.], and soon established a position. In 1765 Serres became a member of the Incorporated Society of Artists, and exhibited with them for two years. On the establishment of the Royal Academy in 1768 he was chosen one of the foundation members, and was a constant contributor up to the time of his death. Between 1761 and 1793 he exhibited eight works at the Society of Artists, twenty-one at the Free Society, and 105 at the Royal Academy. Among the latter were ‘The Siege at Fort Royal, Martinique’ (1769), ‘The Royal George returning from the Bay’ (1771), ‘The Burning of the Town of Gimras’ (1772), ‘The Thésée sinking while engaging with the Torbay’ (1777), and ‘The Engagement between the Serapis and the Countess of Scarborough with Paul Jones and his Squadron’ (1780). Serres was a good linguist. In 1792 he succeeded Wilton as librarian to the academy. He was also appointed marine-painter to George III, but he did not long hold these offices. He died in 1793, and was buried at St. Marylebone Old Church. He married about 1758, and left two sons, who followed his profession, John Thomas [q. v.] and Dominic, and four daughters, two of whom were honorary exhibitors at the Royal Academy. Paul Sandby was his friend and next-door neighbour.

There are several large sea-pieces by Serres (in bad condition) at Greenwich Hospital and at Hampton Court Palace; they do not sustain the reputation he enjoyed in his lifetime. A few of his water-colour drawings are at South Kensington Museum.

[Redgrave's Dict.; Edwards's Anecdotes; William Sandby's Thomas and Paul Sandby; Redgrave's Century; Graves's (Algernon) Dict.; Memoir of J. T. Serres, 1826, p. 7.]

C. M.