John Carmichael, British (1800-)

Artist's Biography

John Wilson Carmichael was a British painter, born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 9 January 1800. His father was a ship’s carpenter and as a youth he was apprenticed to a shipbuilder.

He was sent to be a sailor while still a boy, before returning to Newcastle at the age of 16 where he became an apprentice for the firm of Farrington Brothers, who were shipwrights and joiners in Newcastle. The Farrington brothers were interested in art, and spotted that John had talent, which they encouraged. He decided to become a professional artist and established his painting workshop at the age of 23, when he shared premises with the landscape painter Thomas Richardson Senior in Blackett Street, Newcastle.

Carmichael did not remain long in Newcastle but chose to travel throughout Italy. By 1847 he had returned to Britain and set up his studio in London. He was a regular exhibitor of marine works at both the Royal Academy between 1835 and 1859 and the British Institution between 1846 and 1862. He returned to sea to participate officially in the Baltic theatre of the Crimean War in both 1854 and 1855 and much of his work there was published as engravings in the Illustrated London News.

The National Maritime Museum, London, has his very large canvas of the 1855 bombardment of the Russian fortress of Sveaborg (now in Finland) and a large pair of pictures of HM Ships Erebus and Terror in the Antarctic and New Zealand during Captain James Clarke Ross’s Southern Ocean expedition of 1839–43.

He contributed in image and prose to volumes on marine art but gave up painting and retired to Scarborough, where he died, after the early death of his son