Pocock, Nicholas (DNB00)

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POCOCK, NICHOLAS (1741?–1821), marine painter, the eldest son of Nicholas Pocock, a Bristol merchant, by Mary, one of the daughters and coheiresses of William Innes of Leuchars, Fifeshire, was born at Bristol about 1741. His mother was left a widow with three sons, the support of whom devolved on Nicholas. He had little education, and must have gone to sea early. Before 1767 he was in the employ of Richard Champion, a merchant, who was uncle of Richard Champion [q. v.] the ceramist, and in 1767 he left Bristol for South Carolina in command of the Lloyd, one of Champion's ships. He afterwards commanded the Minerva, another of Champion's ships. His talent for art showed itself in his sea journals, which are illustrated by charming drawings in Indian ink of the principal incident of each day. Six volumes of these journals were in the possession of his grandsons, George and Alfred Fripp, painters in water-colours. Pocock was on friendly terms with the Champions, by whom he was much esteemed.

In 1780 Pocock sent a sea piece (his first attempt in oil painting) to the Royal Academy. It arrived too late for exhibition, but Sir Joshua Reynolds wrote him an encouraging letter, with advice as to future practice, and recommended him to 'unite landscape to ship painting.' In 1782 he exhibited at the Royal Academy for the first time. His subject was 'A View of Redclift' Church from the Sea Banks,' and he continued to exhibit (sea and battle pieces mainly) at the Royal Academy and the British Institution till 1815. In these works he turned to account many of his sketches in South Carolina and the West Indies. In 1789 he left Bristol and settled in London, where he rose to distinction as a painter of naval engagements. In 1796 he was living at 12 Great George Street, Westminster, where his visiting circle included many admirals and other officers of the navy, and some theatrical celebrities, including the Kembles and Mrs. Siddons.

In 1804 he took part in founding the Water-colour Society (now the Royal Society of Painters in Water-colours), of which he subsequently refused the presidency; and though he withdrew on the temporary dissolution of the society in 1812, he continued to contribute to its exhibitions till 1817. He exhibited altogether 320 works, 182 at the Water-colour Society, 113 at the Royal Academy, and twenty-five at the British Institution. In 1817 he left London for 36 St. James's Parade, Bath, and he died at Maidenhead, Berkshire, on 19 March 1821, at the age of eighty.

Pocock married Ann, daughter of John Evans of Bristol. His sons Isaac [q. v.] and William Innes [q. v.] are noticed separately.

Though Pocock earned his reputation mainly by his pictures of naval engagements (for which the wars of his time supplied ample material) and other sea pieces, he also painted landscapes in oil and water-colour. As an artist he had taste and skill, but his large naval pictures, though accurate and careful, are wanting in spirit, and in water-colours he did not get much beyond the ‘tinted’ drawings of the earlier draughtsmen.

There are two of his sea-fights at Hampton Court, and four pictures by him at Greenwich Hospital, including the ‘Repulse of the French under De Grasse by Sir Samuel Hood's Fleet at St. Kitts in January 1782.’ The Bristol Society of Merchants possess a picture of the defeat of the same French admiral in the West Indies, 12 April 1782. This was engraved in line by Francis Chesham, and published 1 March 1784, the society subscribing ten guineas towards the expense. Many others of his marine subjects have been engraved.

Four of his water-colours, two dated 1790 and one 1795, are at the South Kensington Museum. Three of these are of Welsh scenery. Other drawings by him are in the British Museum and the Whitworth Institute at Manchester. He illustrated Falconer's ‘Shipwreck,’ 1804, and Clarke and m'Arthur's ‘Life of Napoleon,’ 1809. The engravings (eight in the former and six in the latter) are by James Fittler.

A portrait of Nicholas Pocock by his eldest son Isaac [q. v.] was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1811, and there is a caricature of him in A. E. Chalon's drawing of ‘Artists in the British Institution’ (see Portfolio, November 1884, p. 219).

[Redgrave's Dict.; Bryan's Dict. (Graves and Armstrong); Owen's Two Centuries of Ceramic Art at Bristol; Roget's ‘Old’ Water-colour Society; Notes and Queries, 4th ser. xi. 331, and 8th ser. iv. 108, 197, and 291; Leslie and Taylor's Life of Sir Joshua Reynolds.]

C. M.