This Scottish-born marine painter moved to London in the 1780s, and began exhibiting at the Royal Academy later that decade. He continued to do well into the 1830s. He was selected from a gamut of subjects, and although he is best known and recognized as a marine painter, he did paint landscapes and rustic genre scenes occasionally. His serene river settings and coastal waters have always been quite popular, and his ability to capture heavy drama in the truest sense of the Dutch marine tradition, especially in painting a significant number of naval and historic maritime events in the period. He had spent some time and effort in the shipbuilding industry.
Both of his sons, George and William, developed into professional artists, first taught by their father. He favored oils, painting on both canvas and sometimes the smoother board surfaces. Known works by this artist are often unsigned, and have been identified via their long-standing provenances and written records. It is significant that he painted not only the River Thames’ activities, but views from all over the British isles, the Netherlands and the Caribbean. It is possible that he sailed with some of these ships on their actual voyages.