Thomas J. Somerscales (1842-1927)

British-Chilean

A great natural talent, Somerscales took a rather unorthodox route to becoming a recognized marine art sensation in his native England. Educated as a teacher, he sketched and painted while serving onboard ships in the Royal Navy as a schoolmaster. Influenced early on by the beauty of J.M.W. Turner’s compositions, Somerscales’ work possesses his accurate sense for the world’s creative nature, and the deep strength of its challenging oceans.

Some of his earliest known works are of exotic locales in Tahiti, captured years before Gauguin would visit. The son of a master mariner, fate and circumstances put him ashore in Chile in 1869 when he contracted malaria and required rest. Once acclimated, he excelled as a local and national artist of the rising South American nation. His climb started with awards in an 1872 international exposition in Santiago, the nation’s first, alongside Manuel Antonio Caro, Antonio Smith, and numerous European masters’ imported works.

Fifty years after his birth, he returned to his mother’s home in hull as an unknown artist. Within two years the exhibition hall of the Royal Academy was abuzz with his name as his work was placed in the first rank. He would continue to astound critics with his ‘untrained’ ability, and scored his greatest fame with his 1899 entry “Off Valpariso” which was purchased through a chantry bequest by England’s Tate Gallery. A British native son had sailed home, and brought part of the world and his love of the sea with him.

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