Isaac Sailmaker (1633-1721)

Dutch-born British

Known as "the father of British sea painting", Isaac Sailmaker ranks among the isles’ first marine artists. Born in Holland, he came to England very young and worked in the household of art dealer George Geldorf. This atmosphere led him into his long career of painting highly detailed records of the British navy.

Identifying Sailmaker's work is not a simple task, due to the fact that not one signed work has been discovered. His hand is recognizable through substantial clues, however. A 1733 Hulsberg engraving of the Eddystone Lighthouse names “Isaac Sailmaker Den” as the original artist. When this oil painting surfaced in the 20th century, his distinctive characteristics verified his style.

Slight, vertical ruffles exist across his stiff-in-the-wind flags. He almost always worked within a restrained palette primarily of greys, greens and black. The single-most reliable characteristic of Sailmaker’s work is the use of gold “blobs” to show gilded details of the British vessels, whereas his contemporaries used flat brush strokes for the gold decorations.

Click here to see our Gallery Archives of works by Isaac Sailmaker (1633-1721)