Spending his entire life in Greenock, William Clark is widely accepted as the most talented Scottish marine artist of the 19th century. It is likely that upon his early forays into art, Clark’s path crossed with marine artist Robert Salmon, an originator of luminism who worked in Greenock for a period. Like Salmon, Clark was far more than a just another 19th century ship portrait artist. His precise ship details are contained within scenes containing great atmospheric emotion of sea and sky, ranging from subtle calms to full gales.
Clark’s hometown became a primary shipbuilding yard and port for the British Isles in the booming marine expansions of the 1800s. Combined with his father’s employment as a merchant seaman, his fascination with the sea is understandable. Some of his first works were of the early steam vessels, with their great variety of propulsion methods.
Although there is no exhibition record for him, Clark’s commissions and speculative works found their way into prominent collections on their strong artistic compositions. He capably created believable marine atmospheres and activity within his commissions. Combined with the historic depictions of 19th century ships, they continue to be greatly appreciated by a wide variety of marine art critics and collectors.