C.M. Powell's early years as a seaman resulted in a thorough understanding of ships and the sea. A self-taught artist, Powell achieved a high level of achievement during his career. He exhibited at both the Royal Academy and the British Institution. The clarity in the drawing of his vessels and the precision of his figures were two of his most notable trademarks.
While he painted in the first part of the 19th century, Powell's work has a distinctly 18th century atmosphere. Although he lived and worked for the majority of his life in his native Chichester, Powell early on adopted the Dutch style for many of his paintings. This and his obvious knowledge of Dutch coastal vessels suggests he lived and trained at one time in Holland.
Powell usually painted generalized subjects, but he also painted many historical scenes. His paintings always have substance and his seas and ships feature an almost three dimensional aspect, usually providing some of the more accurate views of the various types of shipping in his day.