Undefended by delayed Royal Naval Ships of the Line, Dance adopted a bold attitude and a complex ruse to make the French think several of his ships were actually Ships of the Line. After less than an hour of battle the French admiral concluded that he was facing an overwhelming force and withdrew, allowing the British convoy to escape safely.
Every great maritime painter of the period depicted this battle, some more than once, but Dodd's is particularly impactful. Its large canvas size allows a feeling of expansion and broad scope while the alternating areas of a light and shadow convey a sense of drama and danger.
Like many of Dodd's works it's an important record of history while also something that draws any viewer into the action. It's no wonder the Greenwich Maritime has so many of his pieces in their collections.
The painting is both expansive and intimate. Stand back to see the grand sweep of multiple ships and battle, then move closely to examine Dodd' skillful hand rendering the scene in tiny details- the graceful sweep of each ship's hull and the fine carvings upon their stern galleries, the huge flags and pennants streaming in the wind, and the small figures of their crews pulling at ship's wheels and lines to position themselves to serve up another cannon blast broadside. Dramatic areas of light and shadow mixed with flashes of the guns and smoke both illuminate and cloak the ships as they fire, recover and fire again. The technique is one of the hallmarks of Dodd's paintings- one that's been drawing people to his work for two hundred years. This is a great example in very good condition for its age.
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